Today marks the beginning of three days of ceremonies and observances being held across Turtle Island for 2014 National Days of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places.
“Native and non-Native people gather at this Solstice time for ceremonies and events to honor sacred places, but everyone can honor these precious lands and waters all the time by simply respecting them and not allowing them to be harmed,” said Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee. She is president of The Morning Star Institute, which organizes the National Sacred Places Prayer Days. “Observances are necessary,” she said, “in order to call attention to Native peoples’ myriad struggles with developers who are endangering or destroying Native sacred places.”
Many observances are open to the public, but some are private. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that there is no constitutional or statutory cause of action to defend Native sacred places. “Native Peoples are the only people or group in the U.S. who do not have a door to the courthouse to protect sacred places or site-specific ceremonies,” Harjo said. “That must change as a simple matter of fairness and equity. Sadly, the Obama administration has backed developers that are desecrating sacred places and has done little to protect sacred places. The very least it can do is ask Congress to enact a statutory right of action.”
The National Congress of American Indians has called for better protection of sacred sites using existing laws and policies.
Many feel that President Barack Obama hasn’t lived up to campaign promises. During his 2008 presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama addressed this issue in his Native American policy platform for religious freedom, cultural rights and sacred places protection: “Native American sacred places and site-specific ceremonies are under threat from development, pollution, and vandalism. Barack Obama supports legal protections for sacred places and cultural traditions, including Native ancestors’ burial grounds and churches.”
Toward the end of 2012, five federal entities—Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Energy and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation—signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding “to improve the protection of and tribal access to Indian sacred sites through improved interdepartmental coordination and collaboration.”
“The MOU does nothing of substance to protect sacred places, but provides for recommendations and a report by the end of 2017, the first year of the next Administration,” says a press release from The Morning Star Institute.
Prayers will be offered for the following sacred places, among other, from today through June 22:
Antelope Hills. Apache Leap. Badger Two Medicine. Badlands. Bear Butte. Bear Lake. Bear Medicine Lodge. Black Hills. Black Mesa. Blue Lake. Boboquivari Mountain. Bunchgrass Mountain. Cave Rock. Chief Cliff. Coastal Chumash Sacred Lands in the Gaviota Coast. Cocopah Burial and Ceremonial Grounds. Coldwater Springs. Colorado River. Columbia River. Deer Medicine Rocks. Dzil Nchaa Si An (Mount Graham). Eagle Rock. Everglades.
Fajada Butte. Ganondagan. Great Mound (Mound Bottom). Gulf of Mexico. Haleakala Crater. Hatchet Mountain. Hickory Ground. Holy Mountain. Hualapai Nation landforms in Truxton and Crozier Canyons. Indian Pass. Kaho’olawe. Kasha-Katuwe. Katuktu. Kituwah. Klamath River. Kumeyaay Bands Burial and Ceremonial Grounds. Lake Superior. Luiseno Ancestral Origin Landscape. Mauna Kea. Maze. Medicine Bluff. Medicine Hole. Medicine Lake Highlands. Medicine Wheels. Migi zii wa sin (Eagle Rock). Mokuhinia. Moku’ula. Mount Shasta. Mount Taylor. Mount Tenabo. Nine Mile Canyon.
Ocmulgee Old Fields and National Monument. Onondaga Lake. Palo Duro Canyon. Petroglyphs National Monument. Pipestone National Monument. Puget Sound. Puvungna. Pyramid Lake Stone Mother. Quechan Burial and Ceremonial Grounds. Rainbow Bridge. Rattlesnake Island. Rio Grande River. San Francisco Peaks. Serpent Mound. Snoqualmie Falls. South Mountain. Sweetgrass Hills. Sutter Buttes. Tse Whit Zen Village. Tsi-litch Semiahmah Village. Tus Us.
Valley of Chiefs. Valmont Butte. Wakarusa Wetlands. Walking Woman Place. Woodruff Butte. Wolf River. Yucca Mountain. Zuni Salt Lake. Sacred places of all removed Native Nations. All Massacre Sites. All Waters and Wetlands.