They carved arrowheads from stone and hunted giant sloths. They learned to farm corn and created communities on the mesa tops.
The stories of these earlier peoples are still here, told by the places and things they left behind. And for a century, the region has been at the heart of an unresolved American argument over public lands, and what should be done with them.
In 2016, President Barack Obama created the Bears Ears National Monument, named for a pair of tall buttes that resemble the top of a bear’s head peeking over a ridge. His proclamation recognized the area’s “extraordinary archeological and cultural record” and the land’s “profoundly sacred” meaning to many Native American tribes.
Eleven months later, in early December of 2017, President Trump reduced Bears Ears by 85 percent, an action that Utah officials and some local residents wanted. His rollback also followed a uranium firm’s concerted lobbying, an effort led by Andrew Wheeler, who now heads the Environmental Protection Agency.