Home > News > More Headlines > Protections for sacred sites called inadequate
Printer friendly version
Protections for sacred sites called inadequate

Citing threats that include a shooting range, a highway project and a power plant, Indian advocates called on the federal government to ensure the highest protections for sacred places.

Despite the existence of laws, executive orders and other safeguards, witnesses at a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing yesterday said important sites remain under attack. Lack of consultation, lack of sensitivity and outright disrespect are common, they said.

"Housing developments, drag strips, campgrounds, a biker bar and other development are located within a five mile radius of Bear Butte," a small mountain in South Dakota held sacred by more than 30 tribes, said Charmaine White Face, director of the Defenders of the Black Hills, a grassroots Lakota group fighting a proposed shooting range.

Several laws are designed to protect Native remains and artifacts and other cultural resources. But witnesses said government agencies often ignore these and other mandates.

"Even though we've had existing legislation in place and administrative procedures, federal agencies often take off on a tangent and do things on their own," Steve Brady, a Northern Cheyenne tribal member, told the committee. Brady is working on ensuring continued access to federal lands that tribal members still use for ceremonies.

Native people are treated unfairly when it comes to their own religious beliefs, said Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute. She called on Congress to create a right to sue when sacred places are threatened.

"We need a way to get into court if only to avoid going there," she said. "Without a cause of action to protect sacred places we have no way of getting around a negotiating table. We don't have any leverage."

William D. Bettenberg, a Department of Interior official, agreed that legislation was needed but for a different reason. He said that confidential information sometimes has to be kept from prying eyes. "You don't want people to know about the site for fear of looting," he said.

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), chairman of the committee, has introduced a bill, S.288, that could address consultation and other sensitive issues. It would allow tribes and tribal organizations to enter into contracts with the Interior to identify important cultural sites.

On the House side, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) has introduced the Native American Sacred Lands Act to enforce an executive order signed by former President Bill Clinton. It would allow tribes to petition to have federal lands excluded from development.

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) recounted five examples this year alone that have caused confusion and even litigation over sacred sites and burial grounds. "This really does involve a profoundly consequential matter," he said. "As Native people find over and over again, their most sacred sites [and] sacred remains [are] being treated in a way that would be considered utterly intolerable in any other community."

Relevant Documents:
Written Witness Testimony (June 18, 2003)

Relevant Bills:
Indian Contracting and Federal Land Management Demonstration Project Act (S.288) | Native American Sacred Lands Act (H.R.2419)

Related Stories:
S.D. tribe loses burial site case (6/19)
List highlights threats to sacred and historic sites (05/30)
Federal funds used for shooting range near sacred site (03/25)
Tribal school project on 'endangered' parks list (01/15)
Sacred site bill increases tribal voice (7/19)
Interior has few answers at Senate hearing (7/18)
House clears sale of sacred site to church (6/18)
N.M. tribe challenges coal mine approval (6/3)
Input sought into sacred sites (6/5)
Congress considering sacred sites (5/21)
Tribes push action on sacred sites (3/21)
Tribe prevails on sacred site case (3/19)
Norton denies politics played role in drilling (6/7)
Norton hit on exploration of sacred site (6/6)
Myers reversing sacred site opinion (10/25)

Copyright © Indianz.Com

Stay Connected

On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud

More Headlines

Pioneering tribes share experiences with prosecuting non-Indians (10/7)
Congress approves land-into-trust bill for Pueblos in New Mexico (10/7)
House Natural Resources Committee holds markup on Indian bills (10/7)
Native Sun News: Rival teams meet on football field at Pine Ridge (10/7)
Lakota Country Times: Tribes receive $940M in Ramah settlement (10/7)
James Giago Davies: Embrace distance running in Indian Country (10/7)
Brandon Ecoffey: Powerful forces aim to keep out the Native vote (10/7)
Stephen Corry: Native people displaced for sake of 'conservation' (10/7)
States oppose tribal jurisdiction in upcoming Supreme Court case (10/7)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe challenges Indian education reforms (10/7)
Two indicted for death of Seminole Nation man who went missing (10/7)
Mohegan Tribe swears in four council members following election (10/7)
Tribes in Amazon rainforest defend homeland from illegal loggers (10/7)
Chukchansi Tribe accused of illegal vote and casino preparations (10/7)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe suspends gaming official after arrest (10/7)
Tribes to share in Keno revenues under new deal with Connecticut (10/7)
Seminole Tribe remains in talks for new Class III gaming compact (10/7)
Controversy stirs as House takes up Native American Energy Act (10/6)
Native Sun News: Crow Tribe leader advises Rep. Zinke on energy (10/6)
Lakota Country Times: Program for Native students closes down (10/6)
Mark Trahant: Far too many missing and murdered Native women (10/6)
Alfred Walking Bull: Let's open up about suicide in Indian Country (10/6)
Raina Thiele: Alaska Natives share culture with President Obama (10/6)
Mary Pember: Fashion show tackles trafficking in Indian Country (10/6)
Torivio Fodder: Pope Francis ignores sins of Indian mission era (10/6)
Sac and Fox Nation disappointed by denial of Jim Thorpe case (10/6)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe expects big crowd for pot kickoff (10/6)
Colville Tribes pass resolution for small amounts of marijuana (10/6)
Disaster declaration covers Catawba Nation in South Carolina (10/6)
Leader of Comanche Nation disputes removal of administrator (10/6)
Osage Nation accuses former employee of adding non-Indians (10/6)
Donald Trump doesn't think NFL team's racist name should go (10/6)
Supreme Court declines to hear appeals in two gaming cases (10/6)
San Pasqual Band loses claim for damages in gaming dispute (10/6)
New Eastern Cherokee chief takes aim at gaming commission (10/6)
Chemehuevi Tribe hosts public hearing for new gaming facility (10/6)
Little Traverse Bay Bands consider Class II for second casino (10/6)
Supreme Court rejects petitions in four more Indian law cases (10/5)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee weighs seven bills at hearing (10/5)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee schedules business meeting (10/5)
Secretary Jewell heads to Oklahoma for tribal trust settlement (10/5)
IHS reopens comment period for Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe (10/5)
BIA backs extension of Rosebud Sioux Tribe gaming compact (10/5)
Native Sun News: Code Talker medals seen in traveling exhibit (10/5)
more headlines...


Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.