Association on American Indian Affairs

Sacred Places

Sacred Places Image

Traditional religious and ceremonial practices of Native Americans are often inseparably bound to specific areas of land. Many of these sacred places are located on what is now public land and Western concepts of resource development, such as logging, mining and tourism, may conflict with the integrity of these sacred places. Yet, while federal and other land managers routinely take into account the needs of developers and recreational users in making land management decisions, they do not so readily take into account the often profound effect of their undertakings upon sacred, ceremonial and traditional cultural places that are critical to Native American populations, tribes and cultures.

AAIA has provided assistance to tribes and traditional practitioners to protect sacred places for decades. For example:

  • For more than 20 years, AAIA provided legal assistance to and engaged in advocacy efforts in support of tribes seeking to protect the sacred Medicine Wheel/Medicine Mountain in Wyoming. The ultimate result of these efforts was the approval of the area as a National Historic Landmark because of its traditional cultural value and the development of an Historic Preservation Plan to protect the site.
  • AAIA has provided support for the efforts of many other tribes across the country to help them fight development that would have had an adverse impact upon their sacred places. These places have included San Francisco Peaks (Arizona), Devils Tower [Bear Lodge] (Wyoming), Bear Butte (South Dakota), Medicine Lake (California), Rainbow Bridge (Utah), Cave Rock (California), Indian Pass (California), Petroglyph National Monument (New Mexico), Black Creek (New Jersey), Mount Graham (Arizona), Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [ANWR] (Alaska), and Otter Creek (Montana).
  • AAIA provides technical assistance and training to tribal advocates, attorneys and federal land managers, including workshops about how they can use the law to protect sacred places and a handbook summarizing those laws.