Vi Waln: Mexico's Indigenous people aim to protect sacred sites
I was recently contacted by Sandor Iron Rope about writing something on a gathering he attended in Mexico in October 2010. He is a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation and former President of the Native American Church of South Dakota. He currently serves as the Vice-President for the Native American Church of North America.

The website for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) announced the gathering as an International Congress on Traditional Medicine and Public Health entitled: “Peyote: Traditional Medicine or Recreational Drug?” The primary goal of this meeting was to reflect and discuss the legal status, medical properties, cultural values, biological aspects and social interaction, in contemporary terms of the relationship that Peyote and other sacred plants have in the 21st Century. Also considered was the fact that media outlets are bombarding the public with information about the violent war on drugs. Discussion was focused on the right to preserve traditional medicinal use as well as religious or sacramental use of plants or sacred medicines.

At present, there are mining companies seeking to mine sacred sites in Mexico. The Indigenous people of Mexico are in great need of help in getting the word out for the preservation of this land, which is considered very sacred. One company, the First Majestic Silver Corporation of Vancouver, Canada has purchased areas encompassing sites sacred to the Wixarika or Huichols, a tribe in Mexico who makes regular pilgrimage to these threatened areas to pray with water and gather peyote for ceremonial use. The Wixarika have stated the mining of Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi, Mexico will cripple annual pilgrimages to pray for a balanced world for all forms of life.

“Huichol Indians walk across miles of desert from Nayarit, Durango, Jalisco and Zacatecas to visit the valley of Catorce every spring to leave religious offerings at the "Cerro Quemado", a ceremonial center to the east of their mystical religious territory. Quemado is, according to their ancestral beliefs, the birthplace of their "Tatewari" or Grandfather Fire.

“During this time, they also visit the "Wirikuta" or desert below Real de Catorce to gather a year's supply of sacred nourishment in the form of peyote or "hikuri", the magical cactus that they use to guide their path and consciousness. Though found throughout the region, the cacti in the Wirikuta purportedly produce the most desired crop…It is illegal for anyone but Huichol Indians to gather, or possess, the peyote cactus.”

Also, “the Indigenous Wixarika People have issued a statement demanding the cancellation of 22 mining concessions and a moratorium on any future exploration or extraction activities in the Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The Vancouver-based company First Majestic Silver purchased the concessions from another Canadian company in 2009, giving First Majestic mineral rights within the Real de Catorce, a semi-arid desert that includes what critics describe as “one of the most important sites of indigenous prayer in Mexico, and possibly the world.”

“The Wixarika, who are also known as the Huichol, would agree with that assessment. They explain that, “Since time immemorial, [we] have made the pilgrimage to the sacred land of the Wirikuta, re-creating the long journey that our ancestors made during the creation of the world to arrive at the place where the sun was born in the semi-desert area of the Real de Catorce.”

“Our prayer in Wirikuta is that all and every living being on this planet maintains life, and that our ancient Wixarika culture is maintained and does not disappear, in order that the key elements of knowledge and the candles of life that give meaning to our identity as Wixarika People are renewed.”

In the much the same way many Lakota people make pilgrimage to sacred sites located in the He Sapa to pray at certain times of the year, our relatives to the south also make their journey to pray at their sacred sites. In my opinion, the fact that a mining company wants to exploit a major sacred site is unacceptable. Mining requires a lot of water. When water is used by mining companies it is contaminated. I mentioned this in a column a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about how uranium mining contaminated the water supply at Pine Ridge, along with the effects mining has had and will have on both the Ogallala and Arikaree Aquifers.

The First Majestic Silver Corporation, like most large mining corporations, only cares about what they will take out of the earth. They will contaminate the water with cyanide and do not care about the devastation they will leave behind in order to get the minerals they are after. They are of the mindset which seeks to kill in order to make a profit.

The very nature of a cash economy is death. Think about it. We are killing our Mother Earth so we can make money in order to live. Doesn’t that seem strange to you? Every natural resource taken out of the earth is sold for money. For example, oil companies sell the oil which is made into a number of byproducts which are then trickled down to the consumer with money to be made at each exchange of product.

We are quickly forgetting about the earth being the Mother of us all. We stand by and allow our water to be contaminated in the name of profit. Uranium and other elements are extracted to build weapons to kill children. Our sacred medicines and water will soon be lost to the true human beings as long as the big corporations continue to rape the planet.

The Wixarika offer prayers every spring to keep this world in balance. Other tribes also offer these prayers at certain times of the year to keep our world in balance. Our water and sacred medicinal plants are extremely important to our ceremonies. Please join the Wixarika in their fight against further mining by signing the online petition at

Vi Waln is Sicangu Lakota and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Her columns were awarded first place in the South Dakota Newspaper Association 2010 contest. She is Editor of the Lakota Country Times and can be reached through email at

Related Stories:
Vi Waln: Indian Country must look within to address youth suicide (12/6)
Vi Waln: Lakota people encounter threats to their water source (11/29)
Vi Waln: Lakota of South Dakota remain invisible in many ways (11/24)