Our Cultural Sovereignty program has two pathways: one includes efforts that support repatriation – or the return of those things that make us who we are as Native Peoples, and includes our annual repatriation conference; and our Protect the Sacred initiative works to protect Sacred Places, our ecosystems and relationships therein.
Repatriation is the return of Indigenous Ancestral remains, their burial belongings, and sacred and cultural objects back to their original Nations and lineal descendants. All of these types of tangible cultural heritage belong to Native Nations and are the national patrimony of those Nations. There is no individual or entity that has the authority to remove these items from the Nation.
Only the free, prior and informed consent from the Native Nation can transfer ownership of these sensitive items to someone else. Native Nations have never given up their inherent sovereignty over their cultural heritage.
Protect the Sacred
Another aspect of Cultural Sovereignty is our relationships with our lands and ecosystems. Our diverse origin stories place us on our homelands to be co-dependent upon the land and water and everything that lives there. We cannot be healthy and whole without taking care of the lands, waters, soils, air, animals, plants, fish, birds; if our ecosystems and our relationships with those systems are healthy, so are we. Protecting the Sacred means protecting our relationships with all that we are dependent upon for a healthy life. We protect our relationships with animals, like the Wolf who is being threatened by hunting laws even though their numbers are critically low. We protect our relationships with Sacred Places, like Medicine Wheel, Oak Flat and so many other sacred sites and landscapes. We protect our air and water and work towards ecosystem balance against climate change.