good time for prayer: Need to protect Sacred sites still exists
Cacti blossoms are hardening into fruit, and Tohono O'odham families make their traditional harvest of saguaro fruit and mark the beginning of their New Year. Cicadas join crickets to make night music. Once again, the cycle continues as it has from the time before time. This continuum of culture is what sustains the people. Not because of but in spite of the harshest of conditions, politics, history and conflict of cultures. They remember: Elder Brother, Earth Magician, and Coyote began their work of creation, each creating things different from the other. Elder Brother created people out of clay and gave then the "crimson evening," which is regarded by the Tohono O'odham as one of the most beautiful sights in the region. The sunset light is reflected on the mountains with a peculiar radiance.
Elder Brother told the Tohono O'odham to remain where they were in that
land which is the center of all things.
Please note this News release:
THE MORNING STAR INSTITUTE
News Statement For Immediate Release
JUNE 19-23 SET FOR 2009 NATIONAL SACRED PLACES PRAYER DAYS
Washington, DC (6/18/09)Observances and ceremonies will be held across the country from June 19 through June 23 to mark the 2009 National Days of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places. The observance in Washington, D.C. will be held on Monday, June 22 at 8:45 a.m. on the United States Capitol Grounds, West Front Grassy Area (see details under the Washington, D.C. listing below).
Times and places for public commemorations are listed in the following pages. Some of the gatherings highlighted in this release are educational forums, not religious ceremonies, and are open to the public. Others are ceremonial and may be conducted in private. In addition to those listed below, there will be commemorations and prayers offered at sacred places that are under threat at this time.
Native and non-Native people nationwide gather at this time for Solstice ceremonies and to honor sacred places, with a special emphasis on the need for Congress to build a door to the courts for Native nations to protect our traditional churches, said Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee). She is President of The Morning Star Institute, which organizes the National Sacred Places Prayer Days.
Many Native American sacred places are being damaged because Native nations do not have equal access under the First Amendment to defend them, said Ms. Harjo. All other peoples in the United States can use the First Amendment to protect their churches, but the Supreme Court closed that door to Native Americans in 1988. Today, Native Americans are the only peoples in the United States who do not have a constitutional right of action to protect sacred places. 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. Those may permit lawsuits, but they do not provide a place at the table when development is being contemplated, and the Supreme Court does not appear inclined to hear lawsuits which lack a tailor-made cause of action.
During his presidential campaign in 2008, Sen. Barack Obama addressed this issue as part of 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.
Native Americans were heartened by this statement and look forward to President Obama fulfilling his promise, said Ms. Harjo.
Twenty-one years have passed without Congress creating that door to the courthouse for Native Americans, said Ms. Harjo. Now, with the support of the President, we pray that this will be the last year we are denied justice. Native and non-Native people are gathering, again, to call on anyone who will listen to help protect these national treasures and to do something about this national disgrace that threatens them.
The 2009 observances will be the seventh of the National Prayer Days to Protect Native American Sacred Places. The first National Prayer Day was conducted on June 20, 2003, on the U.S. Capitol West Lawn and nationwide to emphasize the need for Congress to enact a cause of action to protect Native sacred places. That need still exists.
Native peoples are encouraged by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which includes the following statements:
Article 11, 1: Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and
revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right
to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations
of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artifacts,
designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.
Among the many sacred places in danger of being destroyed by energy developers are the Medicine Lake Highlands and Hatchet Mountain in traditional Pit River Territory in northeastern California. The Medicine Lake Highlands, a ceremonial and healing place in the Modoc National Forest, is proposed for geothermal development. The Bureau of Land Management says a Ninth Circuit ruling in the matter is not clear enough and it will issue leases to developers.
Hatchet Mountain is proposed as a site for the construction of massive windmill towers and the harnessing of wind energy. The wind towers, which are known as chop shops for birds, will kill eagles and other migratory birds, along with bats, and will disturb the natural living patterns of all species in the region. The wind towers are proposed for placement on a sacred site.
In addition to those listed separately, prayers will be offered for the following sacred places, waters and beings: Indian Pass, a Quechan sacred place in southern California, which won a favorable ruling against gold mining in a NAFTA proceeding in 2009. Medicine Bluff, a sacred place to the Apache, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche and Kiowa Tribes, which was protected in a District Court decision in a Comanche Nation lawsuit against the Department of Defense in 2009. Coastal Chumash sacred lands in the Gaviota Coastal region in southern California. Yurok Nation's salmon fisheries in the Klamath River. Berry Creek, Moore Town and Enterprise Rancherias' lands. The sacred Puvungna of the Tongva and Acjachemen Peoples. The sacred Katuktu (Morro Hill) of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians. Mount Graham, Apache holy land in Arizona. Hualapai Nation landforms in Truxton and Crozier Canyons of Arizona. The Boboquivari Mountain of the Tohono Oodham Nation. Zuni Salt Lake. Carrizo/Comecrudo lands flooded by Amistad Lake and Falcon Dam in Texas. The Badlands. Bear Butte. Black Hills. Lummi Nation Tsi-litch Semiahmah Village and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Tse Whit Zen Village - Ancestor burial grounds. Cold Water Springs and Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota. Ocmulgee National Monument and Ocmulgee Old Fields in Georgia. Petroglyphs National Monument and the micaceous clay-gathering place of the Picuris Pueblo in New Mexico. Sweetgrass Hills (Badger Two Medicine) in Montana. Endangered salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Sacred places of all removed Native nations.