Call to Protect Native Sacred Spaces

From the Western Shoshone Defense Project:

Call to Protect Native Sacred Spaces

—–Original Message—–
From: First Peoples Human Rights Coalition
To: info@firstpeoplesrights.org
Sent: Fri, 26 Sep 2008 8:44 am
Subject: USA: Call to protect Native sacred places

From the Call to Action below: “Article 12 of the Declaration [United
Nations Declaration on
the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] affirms20that “Indigenous peoples have
the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and
religious traditions, customs and ceremonies and the right to maintain,
protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural
sites.” .

“Tribal Nations and Native rights organizations are aware of hundreds of
threatened sacred places throughout the US and are highlighting two
critical threatened sacred places as evidence for immediate political
action: The Medicine Lake Highlands located in California and the San
Francisco Peaks located in Northern Arizona.”
_____

Please fax a brief letter to Senate Indian Affairs Committee urging that
a hearing be held on these issues as soon as possible. The Committee fax
number is 202-228-2589.

Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites; Save the Peaks Coalition;
Indigenous Environmental Network; International Indian Treaty Council;
Seventh Generation Fund; Vallejo Inter-Tribal Council; Morning Star
Institute

For Immediate Release: September 25, 2008

Contacts: James Hayward, Redding Ranche ria/Advocates for the
Protection of Sacred Sites, 530-410-2875; Klee Benally, Save the Peaks
Coalition,928-380-2629; Radley Davis, Pit River Nation/Advocates for
the Protection of Sacred Sites, 530-917-6064; Mark LeBeau, Pit River
Nation/Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites, 916-801-4422;
Andrea Carmen, International Indian Treaty Council, 907-745-4482; Chris
Peters, Seventh Generation Fund, 707-825-7640; Tom Goldtooth,
Indigenous Environmental Network, 218-751-4967; Wounded Knee, Vallejo
Inter-Tribal Council, 707-556-8776; Suzan Shown Harjo, Morning Star
Institute, 202-547-5531

Tribal Nations, Native Rights Organizations, and Social/Environmental
Justice Allies Call on Congress and Administration to Immediately
Address Tribal Sacred Lands Protection

Senate Indian Affairs Committee & Other Congressional Committees Urged
to Convene Hearings on Sacred Lands

Indian Country, USA- Tribal Nations, Native rights organizations, and
social/environmental justice allies are calling on the U.S. Senate
Indian Affairs Committee and other Congressional Committees to conduct
hearings concerning federal land management practices that threaten or
destroy Tribal sacred lands. The Advocates for the Protection of Sacred
Sites, The Save the Peaks Coalition, Indigenous Environmental Network,
International Indian Treaty Council, Seventh Generation Fund, Vallejo
Inter-Tribal Council, and Morning Star Institute have joined together to
address the lack of federal government cooperation and consultation with
Tribes in balancing destructive corporate development of Tribal
ancestral lands an d honoring Tribal rights and needs. The groups are
also calling on the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to
investigate federal government non-compliance with Tribal consultation
requirements and to assist in immediately remedying the problems.

“Corporate development of federal lands that overlap sacred Tribal
ancestral lands not only further the desecration and destruction of
sacred places and areas which Indigenous Peoples have traditionally used
and safeguarded, but harm longstanding and positive Tribal social and
cultural structures, increase threats to endangered and threatened
species, and cause environmental destruction,” stated Mark LeBeau,
Co-Chair of the Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites. “The
protection and preservation of sacred places are essential to the
practice of Indigenous Peoples’ freedom of religions, a fundamental
human right which is recognized by both federal and international law.”
=0 A

The United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN
General
Assembly on September 13,
2007 . This Declaration represents
the dynamic development of international legal norms and sets an
important standard for the treatment of
Indigenous Peoples by
states. It is a significant tool towards eliminating human
rights
violations against the planet’s 370 million Indigenous Peoples and
assisting them in combating discrimination and marginalization. Article
12 of the Declaration affirms that “Indigenous peoples have the right to
manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious
traditions, customs and ceremonies and the right to maintain, protect,
and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites.”

“Congress and the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation must
intervene where the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other federal
agencies have fallen short in their fiduciary responsibilities to
federally-recognized Tribes, including working cooperatively and
constructively with Tribes to resolve disputes,” said Radley Davis,=2
0Co-Chair of the Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites.

On July 11, 2008, more than 1,000 Native rights and environmental
justice advocates arrived in Washington, DC after walking across the US
to raise awareness about key issues affecting Native peoples and the
environment. The successful journey, known as the Longest Walk 2,
delivered a 30-page manifesto and list of demands to Congress, which
included the protection of sacred places and climate change mitigation.

House Judiciary Chair, US Representative John Conyers (D-MI) promised
representatives from the Longest Walk 2 that their issues would be
addressed but set no timetable. “The Committee on the Judiciary will
hold hearings on each one of these items that you have outlined here,”
stated Rep. Conyers.

Tribal Nations and Native rights organizations are aware of hundreds of
threatened sacred places throughout the US and are highlighting two
critical threatened sacred places as evidence for immediate political
action: The Medicine Lake Highlands located in California and the San
Francisco Peaks located in Northern Arizona.

The Medicine Lake Highlands, northeast of Mt. Shasta, are sacred to the
Pit River, Wintu, Karuk, Modoc, Shasta, and other Tribal nations. The
Pit River people believe that the Creator and his son bathed in the lake
after creating the earth, and then the Creator placed healing medicine
in the lake. In the 1980s the BLM gave energy development leases in the
Highlands to developers, without first conducting adequate environmental
review and consulting any of the Tribes that would be affected by the
projects. Developers such as Calpine Energy Corporation have used any
tactic that money could buy to try to achieve their goal of building
massive power plants in the sacred Highlands to harness geothermal
energy, including activating teams of20lawyers, lobbying state and
federal representatives, buying-off some adversaries, and information
spinning.

“The developers are attempting to move ahead in spite of the fact that
project-drilling in the Highlands would likely release dangerous
chemicals, including arsenic, chromium, and hydrogen sulfide, into the
surface and ground waters that Californians and all other living things
in this region rely upon,” stated James Hayward, Co-Chair of the
Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites. “This proposed project
must be stopped and the US government must assist in this effort.”

In November 2006, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the
federal agencies neglected their fiduciary responsibilities to the Pit
River Nation by violating the National Environmental Protection and the
National Historic Preservation Acts and that the agencies never took the
requisite “hard look” at whether th e Highlands should be developed for
energy at all. As a result, the court rejected the extension of leases
that would have allowed Calpine to build geothermal plants and ordered
judgment in favor of Pit River. Now BLM and Calpine are at it again as
they prepare to attempt to conduct geothermal resource exploration in
the sacred Glass Mountain region of the Highlands. BLM contends that the
ruling was not explicative enough and so it is moving forward with the
exploration. The Advocates for the Protection of Sacred Sites strongly
oppose BLM’s reinterpretation of the ruling and will stop the agency.

Louis Gustafson, Citizen of the Pit River Nation, says, ”The government
has agreements not to bomb holy mosques when they’re at war, but we have
to go through all these hoops just to protect our holy place.”

Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks are recognized internationally as a sacred
place. The Peaks are a unique ecological island and are held holy by
more than 13 Native American Nations. Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort,
located on the holy Peaks, is attempting to expand development,
clear-cut acres of old growth trees, and make fake snow from treated
sewage effluent, which has been proven to have harmful contaminants. The
US Forest Service manages the San Francisco Peaks as public land and has
faced multiple lawsuits by the Navajo Nation, Hopi, White Mountain
Apache, Yavapai Apache, Hualapai, and Havasupai tribes, as well as the
Sierra Club, Flagstaff Activist Network, Center of Biological Diversity,
and others after it initially approved the proposed ski area development
in 2005.
On August 8, 2008 the 9th Circuit of Appeals overturned a previous court
ruling stopping the proposed development. The case is expected to be
appealed to the Supreme Court.

“We have no guarantee for the protection for our religious freedom when
it comes to government land use decisions,” stated Klee Benally of the
Save the Peaks Coalition. “This case underscores the fact that we need
legislative action to ensure protection for places held holy by Native
American Tribes. Federal land management policies are inconsistent when
addressing Native American religious practice relating to sacred places.
From the San Francisco Peaks, Medicine Lake Highlands, Yucca Mountain,
Bear Butte, Mt. Taylor, Mt. Graham and the hundreds of additional sacred
places that are threatened or are currently being desecrated, we need
consistent protective action now.”
“The corporate projects proposed in the Medicine Lake Highlands and on
San Francisco Peaks must be stopped. Key federal lawmakers and
administration officials must work more rigorously with Tribes to ensure
adequate cooperation and consultation on proposed projects that overlap
Tribal sacred lands,” stated Radley Davis. “Our call for hearings is a
critical measure that must be taken seriously to ensure that balancing
corporate and agency development of Tribal ancestral lands and the needs
and rights of Indigenous Nations are honored.”

Please fax a brief letter to Senate Indian Affairs Committee urging that
a hearing be held on these issues as soon as possible. The Committee fax
number is 202-228-2589.

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