June 17, 2011 could begin like so many others throughout the country, but for American Indians engaged in legal struggles to protect areas of land that are sacred to their Native culture, it is no ordinary day. Today, marks the first of several days of the 2011 National Day of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places.
What used to be a single day on which various American Indian communities gathered to give prayer at sacred sites across the country simultaneously has turned into a five-day event built on devotion and educating others.
One of the first events to bring attention to these sites, will be an opening ceremony and prayer to be held at 7 a.m. at the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, Colorado.
NARF, headquartered at 1506 Broadway, defends and protects the First Amendment rights of American Indian religious leaders, prisoners, and members of the Native American Church, and works to assert tribal rights to cultural property and human remains, in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) according to a press release.
NARF is encouraging participants to bring blankets and chairs to the front lawn of its headquarters.
“Today, Native Americans are the only peoples in the United States who do not have a constitutional or statutory right of action to protect sacred places or our exercise of religious freedom there,” said Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee). “That simply must change as a matter of fairness and equity. Native nations have been cobbling together protections based on defenses intended for other purposes. Some may permit a place at the table when development is being contemplated, but Native peoples are not taken seriously because the agencies and developers know that the Supreme Court does not appear inclined to hear lawsuits which lack a tailor-made right of action.”
NARF, an advocate for sacred site protection, religious freedom efforts and cultural rights, is familiar with the fight to protect sacred sites, since the current struggle to protect the San Francisco Peaks is taking place in its backyard.
Check back regularly as Indian Country Today Media Network will have posts each day sharing upcoming events. If you plan to participate in any of the events, ICTMN is interested in hearing your stories, send writings, photos and video to firstname.lastname@example.org.