Sacred land Reader

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In the Sacred Land Reader, read:

  • When Every Place Is Sacred by Christopher McLeod (Foreword)
  • Sacred Lands and Religious Freedom by Vine Deloria Jr. (Introduction)

WRITE: A one-paragraph summary about the foreword. List five things you learned from reading the foreword.

Answer the following questions regarding Deloria’s article (Introduction):

  1. What is the American Indian Religious Freedom Act?
  1. How successful has it been?
  1. What’s the Lyng case about and what was the Supreme Court’s ruling?
  1. How did the Court’s ruling treat ceremonies and rituals that have been performed for thousands of years?
  1. Summarize Justice Brennan’s dissent in the Lyng case.
  1. What are the two contradictory responses that seem to describe non-Indian attitudes toward traditional tribal religions?
  1. What does neither perspective understand?
  1. How do Indian and non-Indian communities pass on knowledge?
  1. Acknowledging that analyzing & categorizing sacredness is convenient for discussion, but does not reflect reality, what types of sacred lands does Deloria describe? Explain each a bit.
  2. State what federal courts, scholars, and state & federal agencies refuse, demand, and impose.
  1. What is the major crisis that exists in Indian Country today because of the Lyng decision?
  1. What does Deloria say all people should become involved in?
  1. What are present legal remedies for Indian religious practitioners?
  1. List and briefly summarize the threatened sacred sites.

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the sacred land reader For use with the fil m in the light of re v e re n c e acknowledgments The Sacred Land Reader was edited by Marjorie Beggs and Christopher McLeod and designed by Patricia Koren. Thanks to Adam Fish, Vicki Engel, Roz Dzelzitis, Amy Corbin and Jessica Abbe for assistance with manuscript preparation, research, rights clearance and proof reading. Funding for the Reader was provided by The Ford Foundation, Grousbeck Family Fund and Nathan Cummings Foundation. You may download the Reader as a pdf file at Send your feedback to We will expand and update the Reader. For additional information: The Sacred Land Film Project P.O. Box C-151 La Honda, CA 94020 A Project of Earth Island Institute PHOTO CREDITS Cover Top: Caleen Sisk-Franco and Florence Jones, Winnemem Wintu—by Sally Carless Left: Headless Pictograph in Grand Gulch, Utah—by Christopher McLeod Right: Journey to the Rocky Mountains—courtesy NewYork Historical Society Bottom: Johnson Holy Rock, Lakota—by Will Parrinello Table of Contents Thomas Banyacya, Hopi, at a sacred spring —by Christopher McLeod Page 6 High Country Prayer Seat in California—by Christopher McLeod Page 14 Christopher McLeod Filming—by Cordy Fergus Page 16 Hand Prints on Cliff in Grand Gulch, Utah —by Christopher McLeod In the Light of Reverence is a presentation of the Independent Television Service in association with Native American Public Telecommunications, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In the Light of Reverence is distributed on VHS tape and DVD by: Bullfrog Films Oley PA, 19547 Tel: 800-543-3764 Page 28 The San Francisco Peaks—by Christopher McLeod Page 54 Southern Utah Pictograph (A.D. 1295)—by Christopher McLeod Page 62 Mount Shasta Woodblock—by Frank LaPena Page 72 Hopi Ancestral Petroglyphs at Taawa—by Christopher McLeod ©2003 Sacred Land Film Project of Earth Island Institute Page 92 Winnemem Wintu dancers at Mt. Shasta, August 2003— by Christopher McLeod Table of Contents 5 Foreword When Every Place Is Sacred by Christopher McLeod 15 introduction Sacred Lands and Religious Freedom by Vine Deloria Jr. 27 Sacred Places of Native America: A Primer to Accompany the Film In the Light of Reverence by Peter Nabokov 53 Managing Hopi Sacred Sites to Protect Religious Freedom by Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, Kurt E. Dongoske and T. J. Ferguson 61 Wintu Sacred Geography by Dorothea Theodoratus and Frank LaPena 71 Freedom, Law, and Prophecy: A Brief History of Native American Religious Resistance by Lee Irwin Foreword In the Light of Reverence WHEN EVERY PL ACE IS SACRED ~ by Christopher McLeod damage and the butte-owner’s comments on film VERY WORKING DAY , bulldozers climb during the production of In the Light of Reverence, the back of Woodruff Butte in Arizona, our documentary film that aired on the PBS series quarrying gravel to pave local highways and P.O.V. (Point of View) in August 2001 to an tearing away rocky sites that Hopis on pilgrimage audience of 3 million viewers. As we made the have been visiting for a thousand years. Woodruff film through the 1990s and then worked distribButte is now private property, and the Hopi have uting it for the last three years, our intention has appealed in vain to its owner to stop razing their been to capture the intense clash between the first shrines. In the last 10 years, all eight Hopi shrines Americans, more than 500 distinct cultures, and on Woodruff Butte have been destroyed. the waves of people who came “When we all visited the Woodruff Butte here from Europe, and to property, I was told if they show it as a clash of values, a showed me specifically where clash of worldviews and, at its [a shrine] was on the propdeepest level, a metaphysical erty, then it would not have clash. At its heart, the clash religious value to them anyentails very different views of more,” said the butte’s owner, what constitutes power and Dale McKinnon. “In other the appropriate human relawords, they couldn’t show me. tionship to power. The essence And I cannot possibly work of this culture clash is the around something that I can’t question: “What is sacred?” see. So, I guess I did bulldoze Or, stated another way: “What it. I couldn’t see it. I didn’t do we as a culture value most know what to work around.” deeply?” We captured the bulldozer c h r i s to p h e r m c l e o d E being weakened. Yet a consensus is building across America—and around the world—that past injustices should be rectified and the sacred places and religious freedom of indigenous peoples respected. That’s a good first step. But this struggle is not just about native peoples’ sacred sites. People everywhere have sacred places they are trying to protect and stay connected to through ceremonies that honor life and celebrate the diversity, power and beauty of the natural world. In the Light of Reverence has proven to be a potent resource for stimulating dialogue and reflection, exploring American history, seeking reconciliation between conflicting cultures, and protecting religious freedom and sacred land. The film is supplemented by an extensive Web site, a Teacher’s Guide, a DVD, (which includes additional scenes, an extended interview with Lakota scholar Vine Deloria Jr., interviews with the filmmakers, and an update about other threatened places like Zuni Salt Lake in New Mexico and Quechan Indian Pass in California), and now this Sacred Land Reader. You can participate in this educational process by exploring the following essays, learning more about the issues, and discussing them with your classmates, friends, family and community. If you want to go further and take action, you can join the Sacred Land Defense Team (see details at end of this foreword). Making the Film: Learning New Truths Cameraman John Knoop films petroglyphs in the Southwest TRYING TO TRANSL ATE three stories of sacred c h r i s to p h e r m c l e o d SACRED LAND READER •6• Before we completed the film, I journeyed to the Hopi mesas to show a rough cut to the Hopis who had participated in the making of the film. When my old friend Fermina Banyacya heard Dale McKinnon’s statement about bulldozing the Hopi shrines, she began to shake her head. “What is it with white people?” she whispered. “Seeing is believing, and that’s all there is to it. It makes me so mad!” Though sacred mountains may be visible, it is the invisible realm that holds the key to understanding the sites Native Americans hold most precious. Their songs and stories, visions and prophecies, secret traditions passed down from the ancestors—these are the intangible cultural practices that honor the life force of the land and carry deep emotional power for the communities that inhabit and protect America’s sacred places. Yet the American public has little understanding of Native American sacred landscapes, and it was to fill this educational need that we set out to make the film. Imagine your birthplace, the burial grounds of your family, or your place of worship besieged and bulldozed. What would you do? Lands sacred to Native Americans are threatened by the relentless push for energy resources, timber, minerals, water, recreational opportunities, luxury homes, archaeological excavations and New Age ceremonies. Protections granted to sacred sites in recent decades are now being overturned, and carefully crafted laws are places and the people who care for them into a coherent film took 10 long years. With funding from the Independent Television Service and Native American Public Telecommunications, co-producer Malinda Maynor (a member of the Lumbee nation), writer Jessica Abbe, editor Will Parrinello and I spent a year editing the 118 hours of footage down to 73 minutes. Distribution funding from the Cummings and Ford c h r i s to p h e r m c l e o d •7• FOREWORD Foundations allowed us to the San Francisco Peaks, screen the film in many home of the ancestral places—from Native kachina spirits. The White American communities to Vulcan Mine (at left), Capitol Hill—and there which was providing have been many surprises pumice to soften stonealong the way. washed jeans, was closed When we started following an intense making the film, we campaign by 13 local envisioned threats to tribes and the Sierra Club. sacred sites that were Their efforts prompted White Vulcan Mine in the San Francisco Peaks primarily industrial— former Interior Secretary mining, logging, mega-ski Bruce Babbitt to broker a resorts and more. But we found that native people federal buy-out of the mine for $1 million. are equally concerned about rock climbers who Yet, as narrator Peter Coyote says at the film’s scale sacred places and New Age spiritual seekers conclusion: “Protections granted by federal land who sing songs, beat drums, make exotic managers are vulnerable to shifts in the political pilgrimages and hold expensive healing workshops winds.” The ascension of George W. Bush and his at Indian ceremonial sites. Well-intentioned baby corporate colleagues has been a giant step backboomers, it appears, are impacting sacred lands, ward in the historic struggle to protect Native too. American sacred places. Another surprise had to do with the evolution of federal land management policies. For more than 100 years, the U.S. government repressed Bush’s New Assault on Sacred and even outlawed native religious ceremonies. Lands The right to practice indigenous religions in the United States actually had to be affirmed by an act BEFORE A SCREENING of In the Light of of Congress. The repression officially ended in Reverence at Arizona State University in early 1978 with passage of the American Indian 2003, Cal Seciwa (Zuni), the director of A.S.U.’s Religious Freedom Act. American Indian Institute, unfurled a canvas Given the long history of religious persecution, banner across a table. we were surprised to encounter enlightened The banner was a prototype for a billboard government land managers who were struggling to incorporate respect for native traditions into official U.S. policy. Deb Liggett, former superintendent of Devils Tower National Monument, brought rock climbers and Plains Indians together for two years of conversation that has reduced climbing at Devils Tower by 85%. Sharon Heywood, superintendent of the Shasta-Trinity protesting the Salt River Project’s planned 18,000National Forest, refused to permit a new ski resort acre coal stripmine, which threatens to dry up a on Mt. Shasta after hearing native peoples’ condesert lake in New Mexico that the Zuni believe is cerns about the potential impact of the proposed the home of Salt Mother, an important protector development on the mountain’s sacred sites. spirit. In Hopi country, there also was good news at “We had signed a contract with Clear Channel, c h r i s to p h e r m c l e o d SACRED LAND READER •8• which owns virtually all of Griles, a former mining the billboards in Phoenix,” industry lobbyist, and said Seciwa, “and we mailed signed by Rebecca Watson, it to them with a check, a long-time advocate for but the company’s presimining interests. dent called and said they Another troubling case couldn’t put this message is Indian Pass, in the on a billboard. So now California desert, where freedom of speech has the Clinton administrajoined freedom of religion tion completed a six-year as a casualty of our public process by denying struggle.” a permit for Glamis Gold’s Cal and I stretched the cyanide heap-leach openbanner out and taped it to pit mine in an area vital to the wall of the screening the Quechan people. The room at KAET, the local Quechan have used a public television station network of trails and cereSign outside the Hopi village of Oraibi (1979) that was hosting our film monial sites there for screening as part of an 10,000 years. Soon after A.S.U. conference on “Ethics When Cultures being sworn into office, Interior Secretary Gale Clash.” The station manager walked by, looked Norton re-opened the permit process for the gold quizzically at the banner, stopped, frowned. mine, and though DOI and Glamis officials met “Is there a problem?” Cal asked. numerous times before Norton’s decision was “Yeah, I think there might be,” replied the announced, members of the Quechan Nation station manager. read about it in the newspaper. They were not “Kind of proves the point of this conference, consulted as required by law. doesn’t it?” asked Cal. An incensed Senator Barbara Boxer (D, CA) After a long pause, the station manager said, triggered an investigation by DOI’s Inspector “You’re right. Leave it up.” General when she wrote, “Secretary Norton While liberty hangs by a few strips of duct tape worked previously for the Mountain States Legal in public television stations and universities Foundation, which advocates for mining concerns; across America, it is all but dead in the corporateDeputy Secretary Steven Griles worked previously government world. for the National Mining Association; Counsel to The Zuni battle is one of dozens across the the Secretary Ann Klee worked for the American United States in which new permits issued by the Mining Congress and is married to a partner in Bush administration threaten culturally signifithe law firm (Crowell and Moring) that reprecant places, or where protections previously sents Glamis Gold Ltd.; Assistant Secretary of granted are being reversed. In many cases, adminLand and Minerals Management Rebecca Watson istration officials hired straight from the energy worked for the law firm that represents Glamis industry are approving new energy extraction Gold Ltd. and represented at least one gold mining projects and overturning established federal policompany; and Timothy McCrum, a member of cies intended to protect sacred places on public Secretary Norton’s transition team, represents lands. The Department of Interior (DOI) permit Glamis Gold Ltd. and did at the time he approving the new Salt River Project coal mine participated on the transition team.” near Zuni Salt Lake was championed by Steven On March 12, 2003, Inspector General Earl c h r i s to p h e r m c l e o d desecration of a place of prayer and renewal—and the electricity will go out of state!” At Black Mesa, in northern Arizona, Peabody Energy said publicly that it intended to stop pumping 3.3 million gallons of groundwater every day for its 273-mile-long coal slurry pipeline, but then Peabody applied to the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) for a permit to expand the coal stripmine and increase pumping by 32 percent. As word spread through Hopi villages and Navajo homesteads, strong opposition mounted and OSM cancelled public hearings on the proposal. Then, in an attempt to secure an alternative water source, Senator Jon Kyl (R, AZ) tried to attach a rider to an appropriations bill that would have authorized a new pump station on the Colorado River inside Grand Canyon National Park, and a pipeline up Jackass Canyon to Black Mesa to replace the groundwater that is being pumped into the slurryline. A firestorm of protest stopped the rider, but some water transfer scheme will undoubtedly be revived in the future. Native activists are fighting hard. The Zuni Tribe recently formed a Zuni Salt Lake Coalition and is planning a breach of trust lawsuit against DOI that will require a new EIS to adequately study the complex hydrology of the area. The Quechan Tribe worked to pass legislation in California to require backfilling and reclamation of open pit mines, as well as another state bill to protect sacred places. The Pit River Tribe and environmental allies have filed a suit challenging the validity of the leases around Medicine Lake and are pressuring the Calvert Social Investment Fund to divest its holdings in Calpine. The grassroots Hopi organization Black Mesa Trust has sued DOI and also gained The late Hopi elder Thomas Banyacya makes an offering in the standing with the California Great Kiva at Chaco Canyon Public Utilities Commission in •9• FOREWORD Devaney concluded, “No undue influence or conflict of interest affected the decision-making process.” The report documented 30 contacts between the Interior Secretary’s office and Glamis, including nine face-to-face meetings, and none with the Quechan. Meanwhile, at northern California’s Medicine Lake, a vision questing area of great importance to the Pit River Tribe, Bush administration officials in the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service in November 2002 reversed minimal protections provided just two years earlier, and approved a geothermal power plant within one mile of the lake. Calpine Corp. is drilling exploratory wells, and a humming industrial labyrinth of roads and transmission towers, lit 24 hours a day, is being planned for this remote mountainous area east of Mt. Shasta. The leases were initially signed and then renewed for 10 years without any government-to-government consultation, and no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was prepared. “Enron and others manipulated an energy crisis and Governor Gray Davis panicked,” says Pit River activist Mickey Gemmill. “Now, California taxpayer money is subsidizing the and religious practitioners. Meanwhile, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R, CO) has invited the coalition to draft legislation for him to introduce, and in California, both a statewide sacred site protection bill and a coastal zone sacred site bill are moving forward. Other battles rage on—at the Missouri River, where Army Corps of Engineers dams and reservoirs erode cultural and burial sites; at Mt. Graham in Arizona, where two of seven planned telescopes have been built on the sacred peak; at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, where oil exploration threatens caribou calving grounds; at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, where a c h r i s to p h e r m c l e o d SACRED LAND READER • 10 • an effort to shut down the air-polluting Mohave Generating Station in southern Nevada, which consumes the coal and water from Black Mesa. A new Sacred Lands Protection Coalition has linked many native communities and tribal leaders in a broader resistance movement, and the coalition will soon expand to include environmental and religious groups. These efforts led to a series of Congressional Oversight Hearings in 2002 and 2003 on threats to sacred lands. Members of the coalition are also urging Rep. Nick Rahall (D, WV) to rewrite and strengthen his Native American Sacred Lands Act (H.R. 2419) through closer consultation with tribal leaders FLORENCE JONES, WINNEMEM WINTU, LEADS FIRE CEREMONY AT MT. SHASTA “If you look at the earth, there are certain places that seem to have power, and we don’t know what kind of power it is, except you have a different feeling, you feel energized. That’s why in a lot of the ceremonies you simply go out into the land at a certain place under supervision of a medicine man and open yourself up. And what I think is powerful about these religions is that you can continue to have revelations. All the revelation is telling you is how you and your community, at this time in life, can adjust to the rest of the world. So, it’s not like we designated a place and said, ‘This is going to be sacred.’ It came out of a lot of experience. The idea is not to pretend to own it, not to exploit it, but to respect it. Trying to get people to see that that’s a dimension of religion is really difficult.” — VINE DELORIA JR., FROM IN THE LIGHT OF REVERENCE nuclear waste repository is being built; and at Bear Butte in South Dakota, where a proposed rifle range threatens to destroy the silence needed for vision quests, prayer ceremonies and sweat lodges. The attack on sacred places goes on. Keeping the Sacred in Sight WHY SHOULD people care about Native Which Lens to Choose? AS WE SHOT and edited In the Light of Reverence, we struggled with the challenge of how to tell this complex story and simultaneously make a film that would be educational and promote progressive social change. We looked at various themes and considered the best frame of reference: A public relations or lobbying campaign usually focuses on a single theme, hones the message and sticks to it. But all of these themes are relevant to the complex issue of Native American sacred lands. Probing the ethical dimensions of sacred lands involves looking through all of these lenses, because each reflects different values, social priorities and responsibilities. In the end, the documentary medium supplied our answer. Film is driven by conflict. As we edited the film and wrote draft after draft of narration, we realized that raising questions and stimulating dialogue would be far more appropriate than trying to dictate answers. Our focus became the culture clash, the collision of world views. The Sacred Land Reader has the same basic intent as the film, but the written word gives us more room to explore and probe, plus the flexibility to look through a variety of different lenses. c h r i s to p h e r m c l e o d • Religious freedom • Protection of biological and cultural diversity • Environmental justice • Designation and management of protected areas, parks and wilderness • Historic preservation • Indigenous peoples’ rights to sovereignty, intellectual property, traditional homelands Cameraman Will Parrinello and soundman Andy Black film Dalton Taylor, Hopi, at the Grand Canyon • 11 • FOREWORD America’s sacred places? This struggle goes beyond environmental concerns about preserving biological and cultural diversity, extracting resources like water, coal, gold, and old growth timber, or dumping of toxic waste on Indian lands. It goes beyond the philoophical values we ascribe to religious freedom and environmental justice. It goes to our deepest need for meaning, identity and connection to home, to place, to community and to that elusive presence we call “the sacred.” What can each of us do to protect sacred sites? We can start by looking at the world in a new way, seeing beyond the superficial satisfactions of our consumer culture and reconnecting with what is most important in our own lives. Ask yourself: “What places are sacred to me and to my ancestors? What do I value about the land and the place I call home?” Most of us consider ourselves to be environmentalists, but now we have to do more: incorporate sacred land into models for sustainable economic development, and reach consensus on SACRED LAND READER • 12 • which places are so important to the local community that they must be protected or restored, with Native Americans at the table and directing the dialogue. The result will be a big step toward reconciliation with our history, with the earth and with indigenous peoples. All of creation is sacred, not just a few “sacred places,” and many others besides Native Americans feel this. We need to start living in recognition of this fact so we can protect the places we love, the land that sustains us. Surely we are a big enough country—both in geography and in spirit—to respect and protect America’s sacred lands.  CHRISTOPHER (TOBY) MCLEOD directs Earth Island Institute’s Sacred Land Film Project. He produced the award-winning PBS film on Native American sacred places, In the Light of Reverence (2001). He is also a photographer and writer, and has worked with indigenous communities for 25 years. McLeod’s other films include The Four Corners: A National Sacrifice Area? (1983), Downwind/Downstream (1988), Poison in the Rockies (1990), Voices of the Land (1990) and The Cracking of Glen Canyon Damn—With Edward Abbey and Earth First! (1982). The Sacred L and Reader Kuwanwisiwma, and archaeologists Kurt E. Dongoske and T J. Ferguson. This first edition of The Sacred Land Reader concludes with “Freedom, Law, and Prophecy: A Brief History of Native American Religious Resistance,” by historian Lee Irwin, a chronicle of how the U.S. government and missionaries suppressed Indian religions for 100 years. We hope you enjoy The Sacred Land Reader and will explore our Web site—— to learn more about threatened sacred places and what you can do to help protect them. WHAT YOU CAN DO : To help support the grassroots struggles mentioned above, we have created a Sacred Land Defense Team. You can join by visiting the Sacred Land Film Project Web site at; by e-mailing your contact info to; or by writing to: Sacred Land Film Project, P.O. Box C-151, La Honda, CA 94020. Learn more about threatened sacred places at • 13 • FOREWORD RESPECT AND PROTECTION start with understanding. The Sacred Land Reader compiles some of the last 10 years’ best essays exploring the meaning and importance of sacred places: Lakota scholar Vine Deloria Jr., wrote “Sacred Lands and Religious Freedom” in 1990 as part of a campaign to amend the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. U.C.L.A. anthropologist and film advisor Peter Nabokov’s piece, “Sacred Places of Native America,” expands directly on our film, In the Light of Reverence, puts our three stories in a wider context, and goes more deeply into the three places and cultures profiled in the film. “Wintu Sacred Geography” was written by Dorothea Theodoratus, an anthropologist and a film advisor, and Frank LaPena, a renowned Wintu artist, to support efforts to protect places of spiritual significance. The Hopi perspective is explored in “Managing Hopi Sacred Sites to Protect Religious Freedom” by Hopi Cultural Preservation Officer Leigh introduction • 15 • SACRED L ANDS AND RELIGIOUS FREED OM ~ by Vine Deloria Jr. Holy Men have gone into the high places, lakes, and isolated sanctuaries to pray, receive guidance from the Spirits, and train younger people in the ceremonies that constitute the spiritual life of the tribal community. In these ceremonies, medicine men represented the whole web of cosmic life in the continuing search for balance and harmony. Through various rituals in which birds, animals, and plants were participants, harmony of life was achieved and maintained. After the tribes were forcibly removed from their aboriginal homelands and forced to live on restricted smaller reservations, the Bureau of Indian Affairs prohibited many ceremonies and the people were forced to adopt various subterfuges so that ceremonial life could continue. Some tribes conducted their most important ceremonies on national holidays and Christian feast days, explaining to curious whites that they were simply honoring George Washington or celebrating Christmas and Easter. Since many shrines and holy places were isolated and rural parts of the continent were not being exploited or settled, it was easy for small parties of people to go into the mountains or to remote lakes and buttes to conduct ceremonies without interference from non-Indians. Most Indians did not see any conflict between their old beliefs and the new religions of the white man, and, consequently, a surprising number of people participated in the ancient rituals while maintaining membership in a Christian denomination. During the last century, the expanding national population and the introduction of c h r i s to p h e r m c l e o d S INCE TIME IMMEMORIAL , Indian tribal Lakota scholar Vine Deloria Jr., speaking after a screening of In the Light of Reverence at the Department of the Interior in Washington in March 2002. He asked, “How are we going to present the sacred to people who have no idea what is sacred?” w i l l pa r r i n e l lo SACRED LAND READER • 16 • corporate farming and practice their religion and more extensive mining conduct ceremonies at and timber industry sacred sites on public activities reduced the lands. Some courts even isolation of rural hinted darkly that any America. Pressures to recognition of the tribal develop public and practices would be reservation lands made it tantamount to estabincreasingly difficult for lishing a state religion, an traditional native people interpretation which to conduct their religious upon analysis was a ceremonies and rituals. dreadful misreading of Joe Chasing Horse (Lakota) in the Black Hills Since many sacred sites American history and the were on public lands, religious leaders often were Constitution and may have been an effort to able to work out informal arrangements with inflame anti-Indian feelings. federal agencies to allow them access to these places for religious purposes. But as personnel changed in state and federal agencies, a new Supreme Court rules: No generation of bureaucrats, fearful of setting constitutional protection precedents, began to restrict Indian access to IN 1988, THE SUPREME COURT heard Lyng v. sacred sites by narrowing the rules and Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association, a regulations for managing public lands. case that involved access to sacred sites high up in In an effort to clarify the status of traditional the Chimney Rock area of the Six Rivers National religious practices and practitioners, Congress in Forest in Northern California. The Forest Service 1978 passed The American Indian Religious proposed to build a six-mile paved logging road Freedom Act, a joint resolution that declared it that would have opened the high country to the policy of Congress to protect and preserve commercial logging, destroying the isolation of American Indians’ inherent right to believe, the ceremonial sites of three tribes and express, and practice their traditional religions. introducing new processes of environmental The resolution identified the problem as one of a degradation. The lower federal courts prohibited “lack of knowledge or the insensitive and construction of the road on the grounds that it inflexible and enforcement of federal policies and would have made religious ceremonial use of the regulations.” Section 2 of the resolution directed area impossible. Before the Supreme Court could the President to have various federal departments hear the appeal, Congress passed the California evaluate their policies and procedures and report Wilderness Act, thereby making the question back to Congress the results of this investigation almost moot (because much of the high country and any recommendations for legislative action. was protected as wilderness and the logging road Most people assumed that the resolution threat was eliminated). The Supreme Court, clarified federal attitudes toward traditional nevertheless, insisted on deciding the religious religions, and it began to be cited in litigation issues and ruled that even the Free Exercise clause involving the construction of dams, roads, and did not prevent the government from using its the management of federal lands. Almost property any way it saw fit. unanimously, however, the federal courts ruled Most troubling about the Supreme Court’s that the resolution contained nothing that decision was its insistence on analyzing tribal protected or preserved the right of Indians to • 17 • RELIGIOUS FREEDOM religions within the same conceptual framework these views can only be reconciled by examining as Western organized religions. Justice O’Connor them in a much broader historical and observed, “A broad range of government activities geographical context. —from social welfare programs to foreign aid to Justice Brennan attempted to make this differconservation projects—will always be considered ence clear when he observed that, “Although few essential to the spiritual well-being of some tribal members actually made medicine at the citizens, often on the basis of sincerely held most powerful sites, the entire tribe’s welfare religious beliefs. Others will find the very same hinges on the success of individual practitioners.” activity deeply offensive, and perhaps More than that, however, the “World Renewal” incompatible with their own search for spiritual ceremonies conducted by the tribes were done on fulfillment and with the tenets of their religion.” behalf of the earth and all forms of life. To Thus, ceremonies and rituals performed for characterize the ceremonies as if they were a thousands of years were treated as if they were matter of personal, emotional or even communal personal fads or matters of modern, emotional, aesthetic preferences, as was done by Justice personal preference O’Connor, is to miss based upon the the point entirely. In • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • erroneous assumption effect, the court that belief and behavior declares that Indians “The struggle by American Indians can be separated. Justice cannot pray for the to protect their sacred sites and Brennan dissented and planet or for other to have access to them for vigorously attacked this people and other forms traditional ceremonies is a line of reasoning but of life in the manner movement in which all peoples failed to gather support required by their within the court. Most religions. should become involved.” observers of the Supreme Two contradictory — VINE DELORIA JR. Court were simply responses seem to • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • confounded at the describe the non-Indian majority’s conclusion, attitudes toward which suggested that destroying a religion did not traditional tribal religions: Some people want the unduly burden the religion and that no medicine men and women to share their religious constitutional protections were available to the beliefs in the same manner as priests, rabbis, and Indians. ministers, who publicly expound the tenets of When informed of the meaning of this their denominations; others feel that Indian decision, most people show great sympathy for ceremonials are remnants of primitive life and traditionally religious people. At the same time, should be abandoned. Neither perspective those people find it difficult to understand why it understands that Indian tribes are communities in is so important that ceremonies be held, that they fundamental ways that other American be conducted only at certain locations, and that communities and organizations are not. Tribal they be held under conditions of extreme secrecy communities are wholly defined by family and privacy. These problems in understanding relationships, whereas non-Indian communities highlight the great gulf that exists between are defined primarily by residence or by agreement traditional Western thinking about religion and with sets of intellectual beliefs. Ceremonial and the Indian perspective. It is the difference between ritual knowledge is possessed by everyone in the individual conscience and commitment Indian community, although only a few people (Western) and communal tradition (Indian), and may actually be chosen to perform these acts. Defining sacredness IN A NON-INDIAN context, an individual or group of non-Indians may come to believe in the sacredness of lands based on their experiences or on intensive study of preselected evidence. But this belief becomes the subject of intense criticism and does not, except under unusual circumstances, become an operative principle in the life and behavior of the nonIndian group. The same belief, when seen in an Indian context, is an integral part of the experiences of the people— past, present, and future. The idea does not become a bone of contention among the people, for even if someone does not have experience or belief in the sacredness of lands, he or she accords tradition the respect that it deserves. Indians who have never visited certain sacred sites nevertheless know of these places from the general community knowledge, and they feel them to be an essential part of their being. Justice Brennan, in countering the neardemagogic statement by Justice O’Connor, that recognition of the sacredness of certain sites would allow traditional Indian religions to define the use of all public lands, suggested that the burden of proof be placed on traditional people to demonstrate why some sites are central to their practice and other sites, while invoking a sense of reverence, are not as important. This requirement is not unreasonable, but it requires a willingness on the part of non-Indians and the courts to entertain different ideas which, until the present, have not been part of their experience or understanding. The subject is considerably more complex than most people expect. If we were to subject the topic of the sacredness of lands to a Western rational analysis, fully recognizing that such an analysis is merely for our convenience in discussion and does not represent the nature of reality, we would probably find four major categories to describe sacredness. Some categories certainly overlap in the sense that different “Tradition tells us that there individuals and groups have are, on this earth, some places already sorted out their own of inherent sacredness, sites that beliefs so that they would are Holy in and of themselves.” reject the classification of — VINE DELORIA JR. certain sites in the categories c h r i s to p h e r m c l e o d SACRED LAND READER • 18 • Authorization to perform ceremonies comes from higher spiritual powers and not by certification from an institution or formal organization. The Indian community passes knowledge along over the generations as a common heritage that is enriched by the experiences of both individuals and groups of people in the ceremonies. Both the ceremony and the people’s interpretation of it change as new insights are gained. By contrast, the non-Indian communities establish educational institutions which examine, clarify and sometimes radically change knowledge to fit their needs. Knowledge is the possession of an exclusive group of people—the scholars and the professionals who deeply believe that the rank and file of their communities are not intelligent enough to understand the esoteric truths of their society. Basic truths about the world are not expected to change, regardless of the experiences of any generation, and “leading authorities” are granted infallibility based on their professional status alone. • 19 • RELIGIOUS FREEDOM in which Indians would place them. Nevertheless, A second classification of sacred lands has a it is the principle of respect for the sacred that is deeper, more profound sense of the sacred. It can important. be illustrated in Old Testament stories that have The first and most familiar sacred lands are become the foundation of two world religions. those places to which we attribute a sacredness After the death of Moses, Joshua led the Hebrews because the location is a site where, within our across the River Jordan into the Holy Land. On own history, regardless of our group, something of approaching the river with the Ark of the great importance took place. Unfortunately, many Covenant, the waters of the Jordan “rose up” or of these places are related to instances of human parted, and the people, led by the Ark, crossed violence; Gettysburg over on “dry ground,” National Cemetery is a which is to say they • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • good example of this crossed without diffi“For most Americans, the Holy Land kind of sacred land. culty. After crossing, exists on another continent, Abraham Lincoln Joshua selected one man properly noted that we from each of the 12 but for Native Americans, cannot hallow the tribes and told him to the Holy Land is here.” battlefield at Gettysburg find a large stone. The — NARRATOR FROM IN THE LIGHT OF because others, the men 12 stones were then REVERENCE who fought there, had placed together in a • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • already consecrated it by monument to mark the giving “that last full spot where the people measure of devotion.” We generally hold these had camped after having crossed the river successplaces sacred because there men did what we fully. When asked about this strange behavior, might one day be required to do—give our lives in Joshua replied, “That this may be a sign among a cause we hold dear. Wounded Knee, South you, that when your children ask their fathers in Dakota, is such a place for many Indians. The time to come, saying, ‘What mean ye by these Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., might be stones?’ Then you shall answer them: That the an example of a location with a nonviolent waters of Jordan were cut off before the Ark of the background. Covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan” Every society needs these kinds of sacred (Joshua 4:6-7). places. They help to instill a sense of social In comparing this sacred site with Gettysburg, cohesion in the people and remind them of the we must understand a fundamental difference. passage of the generations that have brought them Gettysburg is made sacred by the actions of men. to the present. A society that cannot remember its It can be described as exquisitely dear to us, but it past and does not honor it is in peril of losing its is not a location where something specifically soul. Indians, because of our considerably longer religious has happened. In the crossing of the tenure on this continent, have many more of River Jordan, the sacred appeared in the lives of these kinds of sacred places than do non-Indians. human beings; the sacred appeared in an otherMany different kinds of ceremonies can and have wise secular situation. No matter how we might been held at these locations, and there is both attempt to explain this event in later historical, exclusivity and inclusiveness depending upon the political, or economic terms, the essence of the occasion and the ceremony. In this classification, event is that the sacred has become a part of our the site is all-important, but it is sanctified each experience. time ceremonies are held and prayers offered Some of the sites that traditional religious there. leaders visit are of a similar nature. Thus Buffalo SACRED LAND READER • 20 • Gap in the southeastern ceremonies in particular • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • edge of the Black Hills of that the Supreme South Dakota marks the Court’s rulings now “Ancient wisdom speaks directly location where the prohibit. to pressing modern concerns. In sacred buffalo emerged each It is unlikely that sites lies a vision of our future and the spring to begin the non-Indians have had ceremonial year of the these kinds of experiplanet on which we live.” Plains Indians. It may ences, particularly since — VINE DELORIA JR. indeed be the starting most churches and • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • point of the Great Race, synagogues have special which determined the rituals which are primacy between the two-leggeds and four-leggeds designed to denaturalize the buildings so that at the beginning of this world. Several mountains their services can be held there. Non-Indians have in New Mexico and Arizona mark places where simply not been on this continent very long; their the Pueblo, Hopi, and Navajo peoples completed families have moved about constantly, so they their migrations and were told to settle, or where have forfeited any kind of relationship that might they first established their spiritual relationships have been possible. Additionally, non-Indians with bear, deer, eagle, and the other forms of life have engaged in senseless killings of wildlife and who participate in the ceremonials. As we extend utter destruction of plant life, and it is unlikely the circle geographically, we must include the that they would have understood any effort by Apache, Ute, Comanche, Kiowa and other tribes. other forms of life to communicate. But it is also East of the Mississippi, even though many places a fact of human experience that some nonhave been nearly obliterated, people still have Indians, who have lived in relative isolation in knowledge of these sacred sites. rural areas and whose families have lived In the religious world of most tribes, birds, continuously in certain locations, tell stories animals, and plants compose the “other peoples” about birds and animals not unlike the traditions of creation and, depending on the ceremony, of many tribes. various of these peoples participate in human The third kind of sacred lands are places of activities. If Jews and Christians see the action of overwhelming holiness where higher powers, on a single deity at sacred places and in churches and their own initiative, have revealed themselves to synagogues, traditional Indian people see human beings. Again we can use an Old considerably more activity as the whole of Testament narrative to illustrate this kind of creation becomes an active participant in location. Prior to his trip to Egypt, Moses herded ceremonial life. Since the relationship with the his father-in-law’s sheep on and near Mount “other peoples” is so fundamental to the human Horeb. One day he took the flock to the far side of community, most traditional practitioners are the mountain, and to his amazement he saw a very reluctant to articulate the specific elements of bush burning with fire but not being consumed. either the ceremony or the location. And since Approaching this spot with the usual curiosity of some ceremonies involve the continued good a person accustomed to the outdoor life, Moses health and prosperity of the “other peoples,” was startled when the Lord spoke to him from the discussing the nature of the ceremony would bush, warning, “Draw not hither; put off thy violate the integrity of these relationships. Thus, shoes from thy feet, for the place whereupon thou when traditional people explain that these standest is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5, emphasis ceremonies are being held for “all our relatives,” added). that explanation should be sufficient. It is these This tradition tells us that there are, on this c h r i s to p h e r m c l e o d these holy places with no ill effects. They have thereupon come to believe that they have demonstrated the false nature of Indian beliefs. These violations reveal a strange non-Indian belief in a form of mechanical magic that is touchingly adolescent, a belief that an impious act can trigger an immediate response from the higher spiritual powers. Surely these impious acts suggest the concept of a deity who spends time recording minor transgressions, as some Protestant sects have envisioned God. It would be impossible for the thoughtless acts of one species to have a drastic effect on the earth. The cumulative effect of continuous secularity, however, poses an entirely different kind of danger, and prophecies tell us of the impious people who would come here, defy Bear Butte, South Dakota the Creator, and bring about the massive destruction of the planet. Many traditional people believe that we are now quite near that time. Of all the traditional ceremonies extant and actively practiced at the time of contact with nonIndians, ceremonies derived from or related to these holy places have the highest retention rate because of their planetary importance. Ironically, traditional people have been forced to hold these ceremonies under various forms of subterfuge and have been abused and imprisoned for doing them. Yet the ceremonies have very little to do with individual or tribal prosperity. Their underlying theme is one of gratitude expressed by human • 21 • RELIGIOUS FREEDOM earth, some places of inherent sacredness, sites that are holy in and of themselves. Human societies come and go on this earth, and any prolonged occupation of a geographical region will produce shrines and sacred sites discerned by the occupying people. One need only to look at the shrines of present-day Europe and read the archaeology of the sites to understand that long before Catholic or Protestant churches were built in certain places, many other religions had established their shrines and temples on those spots. These holy places are locations where human beings have always gone to communicate and be with higher spiritual powers. This phenomenon is worldwide and all religions find that these places regenerate people and fill them with spiritual powers. In the Western Hemisphere these places, with some few exceptions, are known only by American Indians. Bear Butte, Blue Lake and the High Places of the Lyng case are all well-known locations which are sacred in and of themselves. Among the duties that must be performed at these holy places are ceremonies that the people have been commanded to perform in order that the earth itself and all its forms of life might survive. Some evidence of this sacred dimension, and of other sacred places, came through in the testimony of traditional people at various times in the 20th century when they explained to nonIndians, in and out of court, that they must perform certain kinds of ceremonies, at certain times and places, in order that the sun may continue to shine, the earth prosper, and the stars remain in the heavens. Skeptical non-Indians and representatives of other religions seeking to discredit tribal religions have sometimes deliberately violated some of SACRED LAND READER c h r i s to p h e r m c l e o d • 22 • “It’s not that Indians should have exclusive rights there, it’s that that location is sacred enough so that it should have time of its own, and once it has time of its own then the people who know how to do ceremonies should come and minister to it. That’s so hard to get across to people.” — VINE DELORIA JR. FROM IN THE LIGHT OF REVERENCE beings on behalf of all forms of life, and they complete the largest possible cycle of life, ultimately representing the cosmos in its specific realizations, becoming thankfully aware of itself. Having used Old Testament examples to show the objective presense of the holy, we can draw additional conclusions about the nature of these holy places from the story of the Exodus. Moses did not make that particular location of the burning bush an object of worship for his people, although there was every reason to suppose that he could have done so. Rather he obeyed and acted on the revelation he received there. In the absence of further information, we must conclude that this location was so holy that he could not reveal its secret to other people. If he had been told to perform ceremonies at that location during specific days or times of the year, world history would have been entirely different. In that case, the particular message received at these locations becomes a definitive divine command which people must then follow. We have many tribal migration stories that involve this particular kind of divine command, and sacred sites that originate in the same revelation. For traditional Indian religious leaders who have been told to perform ceremonies as spiritual guardians of this continent, there is no question of obedience. The second and third categories of sacred lands result from revelations of the Holy at certain locations. The ceremonies that belong to these sacred sites involve a process of continuous revelation and provide the people with the information they need to maintain a balance in their relationships with the earth and other forms of life. Because there are higher spiritual powers who are in communication with human beings, there has to be a fourth category of sacred lands. Human beings must always be ready to receive new revelations at new locations. If this possibility did not exist, all deities and spirits would be dead. Consequently, we always look forward to the revelation of new sacred places and new ceremonies. Unfortunately, some federal courts have irrationally and arbitrarily circumscribed this universal aspect of religion by insisting that traditional religious practitioners restrict their identification of sacred locations to those places Sacred sites that higher powers have chosen for manifestation enable us to focus our concerns on the specific form of our lives. These places remind us of our unique relationship with spiritual forces and call us to fulfill our religious vocations. These kinds of experiences have shown us something of the nature of the universe by an affirmative manifestation of themselves, and this knowledge illuminates everything else that we know. Protecting sacred sites: National benefits C h r i s to p h e r M c L e o d THE STRUGGLE by American Indians to protect their sacred sites and to have access to them for traditional ceremonies is a movement in which all peoples should become involved. The federal agencies charged with managing public lands, which argue that to give recognition to any form of traditional tribal religion is to establish that religion, have raised a false issue. No other religion in this country speaks to the issue of the human relationship with the rest of the universe in this manner. The alternative use of land proposed by the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service allows the rapid exploitation of natural resources by a few favored private clients—a wholly secular and destructive use of the lands. • 23 • RELIGIOUS FREEDOM that were historically visited by Indians, implying that, at least for the federal courts, God is dead. In denying the possibility of the continuing revelation of the sacred in our lives, federal courts, scholars and state and federal agencies refuse to accord credibility to the testimony of religious leaders, demand evidence that a ceremony or location has always been central to the belief and practices of the tribe, and impose exceedingly rigorous standards on Indians who appear before them. This practice does exactly what the Supreme Court avows is not to be done— it allows the courts to rule on the substance of religious belief and practice. In other words, courts will protect a religion if it shows every symptom of being dead but will severely restrict it if it appears to be alive. Today a major crisis exists in Indian country because of the Lyng decision. As the dissent noted, there is no real protection for the practice of traditional religions within the framework of American constitutional or statutory law. Courts usually dismiss Indian petitions automatically without evidentiary hearings and at the same time insist that traditional people identify the “central belief” of the tribal religion. Presumably this demand is benign and made with the hope that by showing centrality for the site or ceremony, courts will be able to uphold some form of constitutional protection on some future occasion. As human beings, we live in time and space and receive most of our signals about proper behavior primarily from each other. Under these circumstances, both the individual and the group must have some kind of sanctity if we are to have a social order at all. By recognizing the sacredness of lands in the many aspects we have described, we place ourselves in a realistic context in which individuals and groups can cultivate and enhance the experience of the sacred. Recognizing the sacredness of lands on which previous genertions have lived and died is the foundation of all other sentiments. Instead of denying this aspect of our lives, we should be setting aside additional places which have transcendent meaning. Threatened sites IN 2003, EXAMPLES OF threatened sacred sites are Zuni Salt Lake in New Mexico, Indian Pass and Medicine Lake in California, Weatherman Draw in Montana, and Yucca Mountain in Nevada. There are many others. The Department of Interior has issued a permit for the Salt River Project, an Arizona utility, to open an 18,000-acre coal stripmine within a sanctuary used by the Zuni and other tribes on pilgrimages for salt. The mine threatens to dry up Zuni Salt Lake, home of the Salt Mother deity, who lives in the aquifers beneath the lake, and through the flow of water provides salt to the people for protection and sustenance. The Quechan people of Southern California are fighting a proposed open-pit gold mine amidst a network of trails used for spiritual practices for 10,000 years. After six years of hearings and studies, the Department of the Interior protected Indian Pass during the Clinton administration, but the Bush administration reversed that decision and re-opened the permit process for a massive cyanide heap-leach gold mine. c h r i s to p h e r m c l e o d SACRED LAND READER • 24 • The truly ironic aspect of modern land use is that during the last three decades, Congress has passed many laws which purport to protect certain kinds of lands and resources from the very developers who now seek to exclude Indian religious people from using public lands. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Wilderness Act, the National Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and several other statutes all take definite steps to protect and preserve the environment in a manner more reminiscent of traditional Native American religions than that of uncontrolled capitalism or the domination of land expounded by the world religions. No real progress can be made in environmental law unless some of the insights into the sacredness of land derived from traditional tribal religions become basic attitudes of the larger society. At present, legal remedies for Indian religious practitioners are limited to procedures provided by various environmental and historic preservation laws that may, in some circumstances, indirectly protect sites. The only existing law directly addressing this issue, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, is simply a policy statement with “no teeth.” It has led to some administrative regulations and policies that give limited additional opportunities for input, but it provides no legal cause of action to aggrieved practitioners. Harvesting salt at Zuni Salt Lake At Medicine Lake, near Mount Shasta, geothermal energy may soon be tapped in a vision questing area of great importance to the Pit River Tribe. Bush administration officials in the BLM and Forest Service in November 2002 reversed minimal protections provided just two years earlier, and approved a geothermal power plant within one mile of the lake. Calpine Corp. is drilling exploratory wells and an industrial labyrinth of roads and transmission towers is being planned for this remote mountainous area. Weatherman Draw, a valley that contains one of the highest concentrations of rock art in the country, is threatened by oil drilling. In early will provide a legal cause of action when government or corporate actions are likely to affect sacred places. New legislation should provide for more extensive notice to and consultation with tribes and affected parties in such circumstances, and for strict confidentiality with regard to details about sacred lands. New legislation would ensure that the principle of religious freedom, rightfully urged upon the rest of the world by the United States, truly incorporates and applies to the unique needs of Indian religions.  VINE DELORIA JR . is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. A noted author, theologian, historian, and attorney, he is uniquely qualified to address Native American religious freedom and sacred land issues. He is author of Custer Died for Your Sins, God Is Red, For This Land and many other books. • 25 • RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 2002, the National Trust for Historic Preservation bought some time by purchasing the current leases from the Anschutz Oil Company, but the Bureau of Land Management can still proceed with leasing in the future. By the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley, Yucca Mountain is under the jurisdiction of Shoshone and Paiute peoples. In 1977, the Indian Claims Commission offered the Western Shoshone $26 million for their treaty lands. The Shoshone refused, maintaining that their religion prevented them from selling the land. In July 2002, a bill approving the burial of 77,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste in Yucca Mountain passed the Senate by a 60-39 vote, overriding a veto by the state of Nevada, and President Bush signed his approval. As a result of these ongoing threats, the Sacred Lands Protection Coalition—including the Association on American Indian Affairs, Seventh Generation Fund, the National Congress of American Indians, as well as tribes and other Indian organizations—is seeking legislation that a pr i m e r to acco m pa n y t h e f i l m in the light of reverence SACRED PL ACES OF NATIVE A MERICA ~ by Peter Nabokov “Every society needs these kinds of sacred places. They help to instill a sense of social cohesion in the people and remind them of the passage of the generations that have brought them to the present. A society that cannot remember its past and honor it is in peril of losing its soul.” — VINE DELORIA JR. Europe Meets a New Holy L and N JULY 7, 1540 , some of the earliest European soldiers to invade North America stumbled upon the powers of an American Indian sacred place. That evening a train of Spanish horsemen and wagons led by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado approached the adobe houses of Hawikuh, a Zuni Indian village which was located just east of the present-day New Mexico-Arizona state border. According to Zuni Indian memory, these bearded “men in metal” had shown up just as the tribe was celebrating its summer solstice ceremonies. During this four-day affair, a single file line of about 60 pilgrims and elders leave their pueblos and embark on the “barefoot trail.” Also known as the “pathway to heaven”— O ko:thluwala:wa—the path leads 55 miles west to a place where the Zuni River flows between two mountains before it reaches the Little Colorado. The Zuni believe that this is where their spirits travel after death, ending up where a special spring feeds a sacred, underground lake. At this lake the departed are said to dance with the spirits, who are known as Kokko. Not far away is the mountain where the holy Zuni clowns, the Koyemshi, were first created. Some Zunis have described the route from their homes to this holy terrain as “a spiritual lifeline.” The entire atmosphere during the pilgrimage is one of great solemnity; the Indians make offerings, pray and gather natural pigments in an attempt to bring peace and order to the whole s a l ly co l e But Coronado didn’t understand or didn’t care about the Indian ceremonies. So a bloody fight ensued—the first major warfare between Indians and Europeans in North America. Today, the Zuni people continue to undertake those foot pilgrimages to their sacred lake. For a great many of the 300 or so distinctive Indian cultures in aboriginal North America—not to mention for the native societies of Central and South America as well— spiritual ties such as these to their natural environments were absolutely essential to native identities, religious concepts and notions of basic truth. And for many contemporary Indians, they still are. world, to unite the generations over time, to commemorate their origins, and to maintain proper relations between human beings and the universe. This was the religious process which the Spanish were interrupting in 1540, and the sacred landscape they were violating. During their trek the Zuni insist that no one may cross the pilgrims’ path, which has been consecrated with cornmeal. And so it is said that priests of their Bow Society yelled at the Spaniards not to endanger the pilgrims, warning them “don’t cross the trail.” When the foreigners did not halt, the Zuni tried to frighten them away. The following day, as Coronado’s command came upon Hawikuh village, they spotted people on the rooftops making smoke signals, probably part of the same solstice ritual which involved sending rain-making symbols ahead to the little “fire god”—Shu’la:witsi—whose masked impersonator was accompanying the pilgrims to the sacred lake, the doorway to “Zuni Heaven.” When Coronado’s men tried to press forward, Indian priests sprinkled yet another protective line of cornmeal at the entrance to the village, in effect alerting them again, “Do not enter, now, because we’re having a ceremony that you should not disrupt.” Almost certainly their anxiety was due to concern for the safe and auspicious re-entry of their pilgrims back home. What Are Land-Based Religions? ACROSS NORTH AMERICA , a wide range of religious beliefs and practices directed tribes of people toward proper relationships with their encompassing cosmos and immediate surroundings, including its winged and fourlegged inhabitants, its rocks, trees and waters. Special ceremonies assured the seasonal bounties of wild foods and agricultural produce. Individual and group ceremonies tied Indians to the spirits that they believed inhabited their immediate skies, trees, groves, mountains, volcanic fields, caves, lakes, rivers, waterfalls and springs. Risky as it is to make generalizations about all North American Indians, it is safe to say that the great majority of tribes also designated certain locales as supernaturally potent and especially beneficial—as “sacred.” The historian of religions Mircea Eliade coined the awkward term hierophany to explain what happens at such special places. At these places “the sacred manifests itself.” In these locations, the supernatural realm with all its powers—positive and negative— • 29 • SACRED PLACES asserts itself into the ordinary world. entire territories whose political integrity is For Indian societies these were time-honored, reinforced by creation or migration narratives that proven spots for human beings to seek out and describe them as “holy lands.” transact with the unseen beings and forces that But Indians also treasured other portions of inhabit the universe. At such locations aspiring the natural environment for more down-to-earth shamans, leaders, warriors, lovers, hunters and reasons. Such locations nurtured medicinal herbs, gamblers might acquire that special “edge” and special roots, plants for eating, basket-making or boost their fortunes through supernatural grace textile arts, minerals for body paints and ground or assistance. “dry” paintings, and springs renowned for their In addition, Indian creation stories and folk healing powers. Certain meadows, underbrush or tales are often quite specific as to their water sources might attract animals or fish, or the geographical settings. Studying them closely, we twists and contours of particular river valleys learn of sacred sites where a tribe’s original might prove conducive to trapping, fishing or ancestors either dekilling game, and so scended from an aboveIndians might use and • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • world (as with the treasure those same sites Iroquois of the Northyear after year. Gener“We consider archaeological sites to east), or emerged out of ally, tribes also took be shrines and living entities. This is an underworld (as with special care to either where our ancestral people lived, the Pueblos of the Southmemorialize (or studiand when they left they laid these west). We hear of places ously avoid) those places villages to rest. When you disturb an that are still revered for where blood had been being the climax of shed in intertribal wararchaeological site, in our Hopi view, lengthy migrations (by fare. And for many you disturb a living entity. They are whole ethnic groups or Indians, the interment meant to be silent—they hold the by separate clans who of their dead lent a spirits of our ancestral people, later merged, as with poignant sanctity to and the sites themselves have the Hopi of Arizona) to cemetery plots, effigy a “promised land” (as mounds or burial caves. life and spirit.” with the Crow of — L E I G H K U WA N W I S I W M A , Montana or the Choctaw H O P I C U LT U R A L P R E S E R VA T I O N O F F I C E of Mississippi). ONE SCHOL AR who • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Through such oral has devoted much of his traditions we also career to studying the discover how the formation of some landscapes wide range of Indian sacred sites is Colorado was attributed to the dramatic actions of anthropologist Deward E. Walker Jr. Over the mythological beings during a long-ago Age of years, Walker has come up with the following Transformation—such as the work of the Trickster useful checklist of “major types” of such figure, Coyote, who fashioned many of the culturally sensitive Indian places that comprise outcrops, hills and riverfronts of Oregon and “sacred geography”: Idaho’s landscape, as described in stories told by the Nez Perce and neighboring tribes. For other 1. Vision quest sites. native nations, such as the Hopi, the Hidatsa of 2. Monumental geological features that possess North Dakota or the Yaqui of Sonora, there extraordinary (and usually mythic) signifiremain boundary shrines, which circumscribe cance, such as mountains, waterfalls or bravest men and women dared make contact. 3. The Lakota author Vine Deloria Jr. has written extensively about the central importance of sacred 4. places in American Indian consciousness. 5. Attempting to communicate their diversity to non-Indian readers, he has proposed four main 6. categories of sacred lands, and sometimes uses 7. non-Indian examples to help illustrate them. His first category includes places where something 8. significant took place. Here he is referring to spots of historical importance that have been created by 9. human action, such as the Gettysburg Battlefield for non-Indians, or the Wounded Knee massacre site in South Dakota for Indians. Deloria’s second grouping includes places that To this list one might add shrines, sites of have been created by the actions of mysterious, puberty initiation rituals, “homes” of rain or sacred forces or supernatural beings. Recorded in bounty-bringing spirits, and “opening” places to myths and legends, these actions have lent signithe supernatural world. ficance to thousands of Whether with a band of often-forgotten Indian places fellow tribesfolk or utterly across North America. As alone, Indians often left examples, he cites places such offerings of food, tobacco or as “Buffalo Gap in the southother gifts at such places. eastern edge of the Black Plains Indians and other Hills of South Dakota, which tribes offered painful sacrimarks the location where the fices there, suffering thirst buffalo emerged each spring and hunger as they pleaded to begin the ceremonial year for blessings and power. of the Plains Indian…. Several VINE DELORIA JR ., L AKOTA SCHOL AR During key moments in some mountains in New Mexico ritual calendars (such as the and Arizona mark places “The attitude of our species is Zuni solstice ceremony where the Pueblo, Hopi, and that this whole thing was created described above), Indians Navajo peoples completed for us. It has no value except how uttered prayers, sang songs or their migrations, were told to we use it. The basic problem is undertook collective pilgrimsettle, or where they first that American society is a ‘rights ages to these locations. Yet established their spiritual society’ not a ‘responsibilities the powers of these places relationships with bear, deer, society.’ What you’ve got is each could also prompt the oppoeagle and other forms of life individual saying, ‘Well, I have site behavior. For Indians who participate in the a right to do this.’ Having might take pains to detour ceremonials.” religious places, revolving your around some spots because Deloria’s third category religion around that, means you they were the well-known covers locations where the are always in contact with the homes of especially dangerdivine revealed itself to earth, you’re responsible for it ous or unpredictable spirithuman beings. His nonand to it.” beings with whom only the Indian example of these w i l l pa r r i n e l lo SACRED LAND READER • 30 • unusual natural formations. Rock art sites, such as pictographs or petroglyphs. Burial areas and cemeteries. Sites of ceremonial structures, such as medicine wheels or sun dance arbors. Sweat bath sites. Gathering areas where medicinal plants, stones and natural materials are available. Sites of historical significance, such as battlefields. The points where a group is described in creation stories to have originated, or routes they hallowed in myth. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to find an American Indian nation without some claims to being rooted in its particular landscape in some supernatural or extraordinary fashion. While varying from tribe to tribe in historical background or religious rationale, this preoccupation with being anchored to a particular North American regional landscape is usually a foundation of Indian identity. The Long Siege Against Indian Religions WITH THE ARRIVAL of European Christianity in the 16th century, the heavy hand of religious repression descended upon native belief systems and their environments. Christianity followed an exclusive creed. Competing belief systems that revered multiple spirits to be found in rocks and the winds were condemned as pagan and evil. The crusade against Indian sacred places began in Latin America, as Catholics studied native religions closely to identify their ceremonial centers and stamp them out. In defense, the Incas, Mayas and Mexican Indian peoples adopted two strategies: syncretism and subterfuge. First, colonized native villagers took full advantage of Catholicism’s readiness to “indigenize” its rituals and precepts, allowing for animal dancers to honor their Saints’ Days and even their blessed Virgin, and permitting the old offerings of chocolate, tobacco and distilled liquors. Syncretism is one term for this blending of pre-Christian and Catholic rituals. But Indians also used subterfuge to hide or camouflage their beliefs. At old sanctuaries such as limestone wells, caves of origin or sacred groves, they fed hidden effigies and prayed to their old deities of rainfall, mountains and corn. When Protestant settlers began moving into New England’s Indian territories, they proved even less tolerant of native ways. Christian clerics and the Algonquian Indian shamans known as powwows struggled against each other over allegiance to their respective belief systems. Some 17th century missionaries established special “praying towns” to segregate Christianized Indians from their fellow tribes people. The only native spirits of the land to survive east of the Ohio River were reconstituted in local legends as Indian ghosts that lingered around graveyards, or haunted houses, old village sites and dark road crossings. As pioneering Euro-Americans expanded westward into the more thinly populated Midwest and • 31 • SACRED PLACES powerful places is the Old Testament story of the burning bush on Mount Horeb, which spoke to Moses and warned him, “Draw not hither; put off thy shoes from thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” Sites associated with similar supernatural revelations are highly regarded by many Indian tribes across North America. However, “In the Western Hemisphere,” writes Deloria, “these places, with some few exceptions, are known only to American Indians. Bear Butte, Blue Lake and the High Places [in northwestern California]…are all well-known locations which are sacred in and of themselves…. Among the duties which must be performed at these holy places are ceremonies which the people have been commanded to perform in order that the earth itself and all its forms of life might survive.” In Deloria’s fourth and final category of sacred land, we are reminded that American Indian peoples and their religions are not dead and gone. “Human beings must always be ready to receive new revelations at new locations,” he continues, emphasizing that “we always look forward to the revelation of new, sacred places and new cereonies.” Here he reserves for Indians the continuing right to worship in their own ways, and for their religions and cultures to remain creatively engaged in the world. But Deloria acknowledges that this final category of sacred sites yet-to-be faces its greatest challenge under the non-Indian’s judicial system, which “will protect a religion if it shows every symptom of being dead but will severely restrict it if it appears to be alive.” L i b r a r y o f Co n g r e s s SACRED LAND READER • 32 • Great Plains, the Puritans’ single-mindedness was diluted by cultural diversity and seemingly unlimited open space. But in the l9th century, Indian beliefs again fell under official disapproval of the U.S. government. The Civilization Act of 1819 sought to support Indian missions and their suppression of Indian beliefs, and in the 1880s Indian rituals were targeted directly. In 1883, as the scattered Western Indian reservations were organized under a more efficient system of operating procedures, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Henry Teller established the Courts of Indian Offenses. Under Teller’s new network of Indian courts, reinforced by native police forces, participation in certain religious and social traditions, such as the Sun Dance, “animal dances,” give-aways, feasting and polygamy, made reservation Indians subject to fines or imprisonment. As late as 1921, official circulars transmitted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to its Indian reservations reminded federal agents to actively discourage native ceremonies and traditional dances. Sioux woman and child, 1908. The caption on this archival photograph reads: “Bone Shirt’s Squaw and Papoose.” The late-19th century was a time of accelerating threats to Western Indian sacred places, due to 1) mining and ranching concerns, which wound up desecrating sacred places or making them off-limits to Indians, 2) government actions to safeguard the wildlife and scenic wonders of public lands, and 3) growing public sentiment to annihilate the American Indian reservation system altogether. Starting with Yellowstone National Park in 1877, early environmentalists and outdoorsmen began “protecting” land areas that formerly were part of Indian territories— many of them containing culturally sensitive locations, such as sacred mountains, springs, lakes and caves, but also places for traditional procurement of natural resources. Meanwhile, the broad-based campaign to “assimilate” Indians climaxed with passage of the General Allotment Act of l887. Under this Act’s provisions, the treaty-decreed Indian land bases were to be broken up into 320acre Indian family homesteads, with all surplus acreage to be auctioned off. When the total consequences of this devastating allotment policy were tallied 50 years later in the l930s, Indians had lost two-thirds of their land base. President Theodore Roosevelt hailed “the pulverizing engine” of allotment, during which a great many sacred sites were removed from Indian ownership or access. Indians responded in various ways. Some practiced their ceremonies in secret, and surreptitiously visited special places in the wider landscape. Sympathetic ranchers often looked the other way when native families visited buttes or caves on their land. Finally, with the “Indian New Deal” of l934, some restrictions against native religions were lifted. Across the Great Plains, Sun Dancing came out of hiding and underwent a rebirth, which continues today. But the government still frowned upon other practices, such as the harvesting of eagle and hawk feathers for ritual regalia and the use of the hallucinogenic plant peyote for ceremonies of the Native American Church. • 33 • In the pro-native climate of the l960s, issues such as the freedom to conduct peyote rites, the recovery of “cultural treasures,” ritual paraphernalia and skeletal remains from museums and archaeological collections, and the rights of access to sacred sites caused the U.S. Congress to take notice. In 1970, President Richard Nixon returned the Blue Lake watershed to Taos Pueblo. Then, a series of congressional hearings led to passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA), which was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on August 11, 1978. The ability of AIRFA to enforce Indian rights and access to sensitive areas was quickly thrown into question. In a quartet of cases, Indians tried to use the Act to protect sacred sites, but they wound up with well-publicized legal defeats at Tellico Dam in Tennessee, Bear Butte in South Dakota, the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, and the Siskiyou Mountains in California. This last case—which pitted Yurok and Karuk Indian traditionalists against the plans of the U.S. Forest Service to pave a logging road through their sacred “high country” between the towns of Gasquet and Orleans (dubbed the “G-O Road”)—set the most devastating precedent. Recorded officially as Lyng v. Northwest Cemetery Protection Association, this important case reached the U.S. Supreme Court after two lower courts had ruled in favor of the Indians and blocked the Forest Service road due to religious freedom claims. In 1988, the Supreme Court overturned those decisions and found that even if the ruling fatally injured Indian religions, the native people had no right to halt federal programs on federal lands. Legislation passed in l993 sought to strengthen AIRFA, but the Supreme Court struck this down as unconstitutional in 1996. Nevertheless, in dozens of local campaigns, Indian rights groups across the United States and Canada continue their struggles to save the vestiges of their holy lands. “Irrespective of this sad history of governmental insensitivities,” writes the Mescalero Apache/ Yaqui educator, Irene S. Vernon, “the struggle for Indian religious freedom continues, fueled by a belief that the defense of religious liberty will ensure the preservation of all ways of life.” To illustrate the host of cultural contexts and current threats to American Indian sacred places— from rock climbers to mining to New Agers—the film In the Light of Reverence depicts three case studies from the Northern Plains, the Southwest and California. As you watch and discuss the film and learn about these three sites, do not forget that they stand for dozens of similar sites and controversies across the United States where Indians are fighting to safeguard their spirits of place. SACRED PLACES Each place on the map at left is sacred to more than one tribe and so each has several different names. The map on the right indicates the Lakota, Wintu and Hopi names: Mato Tipila, Lodge of the Bear (Devils Tower), Bulyum Puyuik, Great Mountain (Mt. Shasta), Tuuwanasave’e, The Earth Center (Black Mesa), Tsimontukwi, Jimson Weed Place (Woodruff Butte), and Nuvatukaovi, The Place of Snow on the Very Top (San Francisco Peaks). plains “The reason why the Black Hills were so long unknown to the white man was that Wakan’tanka [Great Spirit] created them as a meeting place for the animals. The Indians had always known this and regarded the law of Wakan’tanka concerning it. By this law they were forbidden to kill any of the animals during their great gatherings. In the Black Hills there is a ridge of land around which is a smooth, grassy place called the ‘race course.’ This is where the animals have the races, during their gatherings.” — E A G L E S H I E L D , S T A N D I N G R O C K L A K O T A , 19 11 The Fight Over “Bear’s Lod ge” t O ENLIVEN a Fourth of July picnic in 1895, two Wyoming ranchers hammered wooden stakes into the cracks of an upthrusting volcanic core that was visible for many miles above the Belle Fourche River in the northeast corner of the state. Then they climbed to the flattened summit of the 865-foot high monolith and erected an American flag, which the wind soon tore away. Known locally as Devils Tower, President Theodore Roosevelt made that name official on September 24, 1906, when he established Devils Tower National Monument. Thereafter it proved irresistible to local and visiting climbers alike, who clambered up to the 200-by-400 foot summit. In l934, a helicopter deposited some passengers there; in l941, a parachutist won a $50 bet by dropping there. In the 1980s, climbing gyms proliferated, and scaling Devils Tower by hand became so popular that by 1994 there were 6,000 applicants for permits to climb up and rappel down the tower’s deep basaltic grooves. For a number of Plains Indian cultures, however, these stunts seem frivolous, even sacrilegious. For centuries, tribes such as the Kiowa, Cheyenne, Crow, Arikara and Lakota felt the site was imbued with sacred power, and featured it in their oral narratives. In their belief systems, its reputation stood in marked contrast to its evilsounding Anglo-American designation. For the Kiowa it was known as T’sou’a’e, or “Bear’s Lodge,” which stems from a well-known story of six brothers and a sister who escaped from a bear by praying and climbing a ladder of arrows into the sky where they transformed into the star constellation known as the Pleiades. For the Northern Cheyenne, the tower is said to be the resting place of Sweet Medicine, the culture hero who brought the Sacred Arrows to the Cheyenne people. For the Lakota, this landmark is especially potent. “The Lakota people do not call this butte ‘Devils Tower’ as do many non-Indian people,” • 35 • SACRED PLACES The first comprehensive treaty with the Sioux, signed at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, in 1851, recognized as sovereign Sioux territory a large area including the sacred Black Hills and the important ceremonial sites at Bear Butte and Bear’s Lodge (Devils Tower). The discovery of gold led to subsequent treaties and acts of Congress that separated the nine bands of the Sioux from many of their sacred places. said an elder from the Cheyenne River (Lakota) reservation about his people’s association with the site. “Instead we use different names. I know the butte as ‘Mato Tipila,’ or ‘Bear Lodge.’ I know of other Indians who call it ‘Grey Horn Butte.’ Mato Tipila is pure. It is a sacred site without which our people cannot preserve our traditional culture and spirituality…. Mato Tipila is a vital cultural resource for our people. When we go there in the name of Tunkasila Wakan Tanka, we experience a spiritual renewal. Even the grandchildren experience the intensity and special feeling of the butte when they are taken there.” The World of the Black Hills IT WOULD BE A MISTAKE to consider Devils Tower in isolation from its broader ecological setting. For this horn-like butte stands near an immense “hog back,” an oblong ridge that curves nearly 200 miles from north to south and about half that distance from east to west. Like a protective barricade, the ridge orbits one of the most unusual environmental features in the United States—the Black Hills. A dark forested island rising out of a sea of grass, the Black Hills are as interesting culturally as they are geologically or botanically. For thousands of years, Indian people made exploratory, hunting forays into this isolated uplift. Around 1000 B.C. they began hunting there more extensively. By the l8th century, the Hills were attracting the Crow, Kiowa, Cheyenne and Lakota, and other Plains native groups as well. Especially for the Lakota, the Hills became Wamakaognaka E’cante, which translates as “the heart of everything that is,” or Paha Sapa, literally meaning “black hills.” “To the Indian spiritual way of life,” said Lakota medicine man Pete Catches in 1993, “the Black Hills is the center of the Lakota people. There, ages ago, before Columbus came over the sea, seven spirits came to the Black Hills. They selected that area [and that was] the beginning of sacredness to the Lakota people.” Until the middle of the 19th century, ownerhip of the Black Hills was not an issue. When the U.S. government signed its first treaty with most of the major Plains Indian tribes at Ft. Laramie in 1851, it affirmed Lakota rights to 60 million acres including Devils Tower and all of the Black Hills. (See maps above.) In 1868, following the First Great Sioux War, a second Ft. Laramie treaty Present-day Lakota claims of traditional religious ties to the Hills are well-substantiated. Included in a series of drawings produced by the l9th century Lakota artist, Amos Bad Heart Bull, is a pictoraphic map of the Black Hill’s many revered sites. (See below.) Encircling the area one clearly sees the oval race track, “Red Canyon,” where it is said the world’s first animals ran an epic foot race to see which would function as the leading species. Directly at the heart of the Hills lies Harney Peak, the craggy mountain where the famous Oglala seer Black Elk experienced the visions described in his autobiography, Black Elk Speaks. Among other sites of cultural significance nearby are The Old Woman’s Hill, The Dancer’s Hill and Buffalo Gap. Only a mile or so northeast of the sacred race track stands the Hills’ best-known sacred place— Mato Paha, or Bear Butte. Geologists call it a “laccolith,” a volcano that never reached eruption, as if still storing its force within. The Mandan of North Dakota used to undertake pilgrimages to this place; in 1857, it was the site of a great council of the Teton and other Lakota tribes, when Crazy Horse vowed to resist the whites forever. Today it remains a highly desirable location for vision-questing. Bear Butte is equally sacred to the Cheyenne. Known as Nowah’wus, it is where the tribe was instructed about its life, given relationships with the world’s animals, and received ceremonies that are still performed by the Cheyenne today. Around 1979, the sanctity of Bear Butte was endangered when Indian vision-questers were forced to restrict the times they could fast, and were told that portions of Bear From A Pictographic History of the Oglala Sioux by Amos Bad Heart Bull, Lakota, this 19th century ledger drawing clearly Butte State Park would be off-limits shows the Black Hills surrounded by the sacred hoop known as “the to them while parking facilities were racetrack,” along with Mato Tipila (aka Bear’s Lodge or Devils expanded. This worsened Indian Tower) at the top of the hoop and Bear Butte just outside the hoop. resentment about signs posted at © 1 96 7 & 1 9 9 5, U n i v e r s i t y o f N e b r a s k a P r e s s SACRED LAND READER • 36 • reduced that to 26 million acres, but Devils Tower, the Hills and all of South Dakota remained in Lakota hands. Then, in the summer of l874, General George Armstrong Custer led an exploratory expedition directly through the Hills, breaking the treaty and confirming the existence of gold. Nothing could brook the thousands of miners awaiting the goahead to claim creeks and build sluices throughout the region. Two years after the Lakota turned down President Grant’s 1875 offer to buy the Black Hills for $6 million, the U.S. Congress passed the Black Hills Act, which transferred ownership to non-Indians. From the 1920s until today, groups of Lakota have filed claims in various courts to recover the area. Finally, in 1979, the U.S. Indian Claims Commission decided that the “Sioux Nation” deserved compensation for the Hills, and offered an initial payment of $105 million. But the following year the Indians decided they would rather regain their beloved lands, and they have thus far refused to accept the claims settlement, which would permanently extinguish their aboriginal title to the land. • 37 • SACRED PLACES c h r i s to p h e r m c l e o d W i l l Pa r r i n e l lo park overlooks which informed Devils Tower.” If climbers tourists where Indians could be refused, warned Monument spotted conducting their Superintendent Deb Liggett, the religious practices. But Bear Park would simply not issue Butte was a multi-use state climbing permits, making the park, a registered National June ban mandatory. The draft Natural Landmark and a plan also called for an outright navigational guide for the flight ban on commercial climbing. Elaine Quiver (Lakota) at Mato Tipila paths of supersonic aircraft. So That caused commercial in 1983, the joint Lakota and Cheyenne suit to guide Andy Petefish to team up with the fight these restrictions was turned down, and a conservative Mountain States Legal Foundation parking lot was built alongside the area where and slap the Park Service with a lawsuit, accusing they camp and conduct their ceremonial sweat it of violating the climbers’ constitutional rights, baths. and of “establishing religion on a federally owned About 60 miles to the west of Bear Butte, a piece of ground.” In June 1996, a federal judge in legal struggle over religious protection for Devils Wyoming sided with the climbers, citing the Tower National Monument came to a head in the northern California G-O Road case as a precedent early 1990s. Just as Indians were reasserting their that “affirmative action by the National Park religious rights to Black Hills sites, increasing Service to exclude legitimate public use of the numbers of rock climbers were registering to tower for the sole purpose of aiding and advancclimb the tower. ing some American Indians’ religious practices To Indians, however, hammering pitons into violates the First Amendment’s Establishment this rock was a desecration. When spokespeople Clause.” such as Elaine Quiver of the Gray Eagle Society on At the same time, Judge William Downes the Pine Ridge (Lakota) Reservation complained, refused to forbid the Park Service from making “It’s a sacred site and should not be desecrated by their verbal request to climbers for a voluntary pounding on it,” some climbers responded that halt during the month of June. In his words, their sensations when ascending “a voluntary program whereby the Tower and their feeling of climbers are encouraged to show communion with nature were respect for American Indian just as spiritual. Besides, they religious and cultural traditions argued, the National Park is both laudable and Service’s policy of assuring constitutionally permissible.” “multiple use” of its sites As a result of the Park protected their right to climb. Service’s consultation process These sportsmen were and public education program, unhappy with the National Park June climbing of Devils Tower Service’s “Climbing has decreased by 85%. Native Management Plan,” issued in people of the Plains look February 1995. The new plan forward to a day when all called for a voluntary halt to climbers voluntarily choose not climbing during the “culturally to climb the tower during every significant” month of June, out month of the year—and the of respect for the “reverence volcanic monolith is re-named many American Indians hold for Bear’s Lodge. Climbing Devils Tower southwest “The Hopi Tusqua (land) is our Love and will always be, and it is the land upon which our leader fixes and tells the dates of our religious life. Our land, our religion, and our life are one…. It is from the land that each true Hopi gathers the rocks, the plants, the different woods, roots, and his life, and each in the authority of his rightful obligation brings to our ceremonies proof of our ties to this land. Our footprints mark well the trails to these sacred places where each year we go in performance of our duties. It is upon this land that we have hunted and were assured of rights to game such as deer, elk, antelope, buffalo, rabbit, turkey. It is here that we captured the eagle, the hawk, and such birds whose feathers belong to our ceremonies. It is over this land that many people [clan groups] have come seeking places for settlement. It is here on this land that we are bringing up our younger generation and through preserving the ceremonies are teaching them proper human behavior and strength of character to make them true citizens among all the people.” — F R O M A 19 51 H O P I P E T I T I O N T O T H E U . S . G O V E R N M E N T “Jimson-Weed Pl ace”—The Destruction of Wo odruff Butte I N 1992 , a contingent of Hopi Indian priests were finishing their 1,100-mile pilgrimage to nine major sacred shrines that mark the boundaries of their landscape in northern Arizona, the traditional domain the tribe calls Hopitutskwa. Located both inside and outside of their official reservation’s perimeter, hundreds of shrines dot the landscape of the Hopi’s ancestral territory. Some shrines mark places where clans paused during migrations. Others commemorate village sites where Hopis once lived, or ancient footpaths still in use today. Shrines also consecrate fresh water springs, sites where salt is gathered or eagles captured, and mountains where kachinas—the rain-bringing spirits impersonated during ceremonies—live in the mists. Periodically, the Hopis feel obliged to renew the life-force of these places by visiting them to plant prayer-sticks, or pahos, to pray and blow from special prayer pipes the smoke which is equated with moisture from rain-bearing clouds. As the late chairman of the Hopi Tribal Council, Abbot c h r i s to p h e r m c l e o d • 39 • SACRED PLACES Sekaquaptewa, once The Hopi visitors explained, “The elders were well aware that say that the shrines are their access to the site our standards—the way was tenuous and its white people raise flags future uncertain. over their territory. Since 1935, it had Without our shrines, been owned by nonan inheritance, we Indian road-builders simply cannot continue who coveted its ironas Hopis.” Anthropolorich, angular cobbles. Woodruff Butte gist Armin Geertz has Already some Bearwritten of Hopi visitastrap clan shrines were tion to the major tutskwa boundary shrines: disturbed when a radio tower was constructed in the l960s. But in 1990, immediately after the land was leased to a gravel mining concern, a bulldozer “Pilgrimages are made to the various ruins tore into the butte. which Hopi clan migration mythology lays On this visit the Hopis confronted a barbed claim to, and which are guarded by the clan wire fence, with a crucified coyote hanging ancestors. Clans made journeys to the alongside a “No Trespassing” sign. After offering former homes of their ancestors in order to prayers, they left with heavy hearts. In l996, keep an eye on the ruins, to keep the spirits mining accelerated, obliterating more of their alive as boundary guardians and to notify them whenever major ceremonials were to ancestral markers and destroying the Zuni shrine be performed at home.” as well. When the Hopis complained, a judge suggested they buy the place for $3 million. At present, Woodruff Butte is still being shortened Traveling for four days in the clockwise from the top and reduced, truckload by truckload, direction, which is obligatory for Hopi ritual to rubble. No court of law or public opinion h...
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Running Head: SACRED LAND


Sacred land Reader
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Summary of Foreword "When Every Place Is Sacred" by Christopher McLeod
Christopher McLeod highlights the need for legislation that would help protect sacred
places, with reference to the worship and holy lands of Native Americans. However, the issue of
Lands sacred to Native Americans is so complex since much of these places must have some
form of secrecy, which non-natives do not seem to understand nor respect. Additionally, the
current legislation does not work to protect these lands due to the capitalistic nature of various
American governments who have narrowed down on such laws rendering them ineffective. This
is further compounded by an alleged conflict of interest by policymakers who on the one hand
act like they are willing to help the Native Americans only to make moves that favor the
commercial interest of the private few. Native Americans, for a hundred years, have faced
persecution due to their will to uphold their beliefs norms and values albeit tradition, resulting in
them developing ways to practice their traditions secretly (McLeod, 2003).
Five things learned from the Foreword

Traditional communities have a wide collection of beliefs, which at best are kept private.


Legislation can be both useful and detrimental to the holistic growth of society especially
in abstract matters such as religion.


While fighting for the rights and protection of sacred lands, the themes involved are of
great importance to the rest of the public such environmental protection hence the rest of
the public should pay attention to the pleas of the Native Americans.


The Corporate-Government worlds are more concerned with revenue generation, at the
expense of the Native Americans tradi...

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