Environment | Opinion

Duane Champagne: The law and protecting sacred places

"The land has multiple cultural interpretations and creates competing orientations about the use and value of land. Since moving onto reservations most Native American communities have lost direct control over many of the sacred places within their community history and teachings. Holy or special places are vulnerable to non-Indian forces, which do not know about the meaning and purpose of the places and often destroy the sites for economic purposes.

Many of the mounds and earthworks from the Adena, Hopewellian, and Mississippian cultures, which stretched over the 800 BC to 1500 AD period, have been plowed over for farming.

Indian communities have always protected their sacred places. In recent decades tribal communities have worked hard to present legal cases, legislation, nonprofit foundations, and social protest as means to protect the burial grounds, history, and sacred places still living within their oral traditions.

The American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) of the 1970s and later, provided directives from U.S. presidents that federal agencies needed to consult with tribal communities about actions that might affect tribal heritage and sacred sites on federal land."

Get the Story:
Duane Champagne: Protecting Native American Sacred Sites (Indian Country Today 10/27)

Related Stories:
Duane Champagne: Self-determination and the environment (10/17)

Join the Conversation