America’s renewed legacy of destroying Indigenous cultures

by April 14, 2010

During his election campaign in 2008, U.S. President Barack Obama vowed to help protect Indigenous Cultural Rights and Sacred places, stating in his platform that "Native American sacred places and site-specific ceremonies are under threat from development, pollution, and vandalism. Barack Obama supports legal protections for sacred places and cultural traditions, including Native ancestors' burial grounds and churches."

Unfortunately, this straightforward and morally-responsible position has failed to materialize.

As a result, more and more sacred sites in the United States are being threatened; while others continue to be torn apart in the names of comfort, convenience, desperation and so-called progress. Here are just some of the currently endangered Sacred sites:

The Glen Cove Shellmound site in Vallejo, California, is being threatened by the Greater Vallejo Recreation District (GVRD) and the City of Vallejo. They want to turn the site into a community park with its own trail, picnic tables, restroom facilities and parking lot. Known to the Ohlone Peoples as Sogorea Te, the site is a final resting place for thousands of Indigenous People dating back at least 3,500 years.

The San Francisco Peaks, a sacred Mountain in Northern Arizona, has been under threat for several years by a ski resort project. In 2004, the project developers proposed the use of roughly 180 million gallons of treated wastewater effluent to produce fake snow on the Mountain. Fortunately, the obscene effort to make "sewage snow" was halted in December. However, the resort is being allowed to expand, so it may be only a matter of time before the US Forest Service-backed sewage scheme is renewed. The San Francisco Peaks are held sacred by more than 13 Indigenous Nations.

In Massachusetts, a large-scale wind farm development project is threatening Nantucket Sound, a sacred place for the Wampanoag Nation. The project calls for 30 wind turbines spread over several miles along the Cape Cod shoreline. A recent action alert explains, "Wampanoag means 'People of the First Light' because they have sacred ceremonies which require an unobstructed view of the rising sun over Nantucket Sound. The sunrise rituals are also performed on the death of elders." Standing 400 feet tall, the turbines would obstruct the Wampanoag's view. Further, "off-shore burials would also be destroyed by the project. They have claimed the Sound as a Traditional Cultural Property and it has been determined eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places." Nevertheless, the project is being pushed ahead.

Since 2006, a sacred Mountain known as Mato Paha (Bear Butte) has faced continual encroachment of bars and concert venues, turning a place of Ceremony for the Plains People into the ditch of a nearby social wasteland. Located eight miles east of Sturgis, South Dakota, each August the Sturgis Bike Rally brings as many as 500,000 people to the region, along with "excessive motorcycle noise pollution, helicopters, flashing strobe lights over the mountain" and boundless intoxicated campers. "Traditional people travel to Bear Butte for annual ceremonies and to worship, from May through the end of August," explains the website, Protect Bear Butte. And now, "Each year people are violated in ceremony with the extreme noise and commotion that the Rally brings." There has also been a great deal of racism underlying the Rally and developments.

Other sites include: Black Mesa, the sacred homelands of the Dine’ (Navajo) and Hopi Peoples; The Mound temples and historic villages of the Muscogee in Mississippi; The Traditional Ceremonial lands of the Karuk in northern California; The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, known to the Gwich’in People as "the sacred place where life begins".

Further, there is Red Butte, a sacred place to the Havasupai Nation, now threatened by uranium mining; Eagle Rock, a spiritual site to Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, threatened by a nickel and copper sulfide mine; the "mysterious" Alabama mound, a place of prayer for many Indigenous Nations, recently "accidentally" desecrated; The sacred Cherokee site of Kituwah, threatened by a new electrical station; and the Shoshone Spiritual site of Mount Tenabo, which is threatened by an open pit gold mine.

Also, there is Mount Graham and the Oak Flats, which are sacred sites to the San Carlos Apache; The Sutter Buttes of Northern California, which are sacred to the Maidu and Wintun Peoples; the McCloud River Watershed, sacred to the Winnemem Wintu People; and the sacred sites of the O'odham People, which are being threatened by a new freeway project.

To recap, these are just some of the sacred sites that are facing imminent destruction in the United States today. It's an unparallelled tragedy, to be sure. You won't find so many endangered sites anywhere else in the world.

However, to some of us, it's more like a renewal of one of America's most abhorrent legacies---as if the Nations State and its corporate allies have reached back to a time when entire villages would be thrown into pits and burned, when blankets infested with small pox would be given away for free, and when the military would paste up one dollar "scalp rewards" in every colony they could find.

Even the arguments used to justify these and other historical atrocities are the same as the ones that CEOs and government officials are using today to justify the destruction of these sacred sites and to absolutely disregard the rights and cultures of Indigenous People.

It's quite telling about just how far America has come. Or, more to the point, how important it is for us to do something "more" than we are doing to protect our own legacy for future generations.

In short, while the U.S. government (along with every Nations State in the world) has an obligation for non-infringement and co-operation with Indigenous Nations, it is up to us to compel them to adhere to it, just as it is up to us (Indigenous People) to protect our sacred places, all of which we need to live rich and fulfilling lives.

If we cannot do this, then the most we can hope for is more glowing rhetoric, the odd court decision which can be overturned at any time, and the continued, ever-increasing renewal of American colonial barbarism.

  • Per Olsen. Denmark
    April 15, 2010 at 2:06 am

    Here in Denmark the Christians invading our culture from the 9th century and forth did exactly the same thing: Destroyed our sacred sites and build their stone houses of no peace with the environment waging war on our traditions whilst plastering their unsavoury dead around in the sacred ground and forcing everyone to pay trite to their beggars, convert to their priest or die. - Alas: more than 500 years of terror! - They still have a state-sponsored church to fight indigenous folks!

    So please do not just judge America's lack of respect for culture, tradition and sane living on the white folks as such!

    As I see it it these days it all boils down to Fundamentalism - special interest groups with greed beyond comprehension, snake-oil-sale folks who would not take no for an answer and blinded by lust of result and hatred for what they do not understand tried to spoil everything that other people love ... everything that smacks of beauty, harmony and peace.

    Luckily here in Scandinavia - as well as on the Turtle Islands - the indigenous tribes little by little get their say again ... no amount of terror - not even large-scale H-bombing - can stop that movement back to peace with nature, tribes folks and reality.

    We shall live again!!! - And that wonderful time has come at last :-)

    Per Olsen. Denmark


    • April 19, 2010 at 12:14 pm

      For information on Canada's biggest art fraud in Candian history in regards to the art and legacy of Norval Morrisseau, check out this definitive blog with tons of information. It is an act of cultural genocide being inflicted.

      Thank you, MAJ

  • May 2, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    A Few Updates:

    Sadly, the Nantucket Sound Cape Wind Project was approved a couple days ago. And the Canadian company Barrick Gold was given the go-ahead for their gold mine project, which threatens the Shoshone sacred site of Mount Tenabo.

    Also, in case anyone missed it, there's an ongoing protest camp at Eagle Rock.

    And finally, word has come in that a group of helicopters tried to land on the Lakota Sacred Burial grounds at Wounded Knee. At this point, it's not clear why the helicopters were there. But, in any case, a group of Lakota protesters stopped them


  • Thunderbeing
    May 3, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    They went to land there to apolagize and show respect unfortunatey it was on the wounded knee site itself and they used the seventh calvary air unit big mistake and insult.Now about Mount Tenabo,Ahni you say that they have approved the desecration of the sacred mountain??I thought this problem was fixed?The great spirits are really and i mean really upset with the U.S at this time over the desecration of all the sacred sites out there in America.I am truly worried for the good people out there.We are talking about powerful repercussions that will be unstoppable.The more that they desecrate the more powerful the repercussions.Even some of the most powerful of us won't be able to hold back the storms so to speak.I am shocked that the white Americans desecrate more sacred sites then any other nation in the world.I hope you don't live out there Ahni.


    • May 4, 2010 at 7:43 pm

      you say that they have approved the desecration of the sacred mountain??I thought this problem was fixed?

      Sadly, no. The Appeals Court agreed with the Shoshone's environmental concerns, but completely ignored their treaty rights and refused to acknowledge that the site was in danger. In any case, the court ultimately ordered Barrick to halt the project. But then Barrick turned around and said they weren't going to acknowledge the ruling---and then they basically called the court "irrelevant" and said they're going to keep working on the mine as if the ruling was never handed down.

      And now there's this new decision, which did exactly what Barrick wanted.

  • WeldonAustin
    January 4, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Corp. Government (U.S.A) is never going to stop untill all minorities are wiped out , the public should be aware of all info. that comes out. why isn't the TeaParty group accused of Treason!..oh yeah there White!


  • Webspin
    January 5, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Damn what a fool! Guess the autobahn society, green peace, missionaries, sierra club, astronomy groups, gardening groups...must be racist to cause they're all white too! Google a photo of the Smithsonian while your at it, guess the color of the crowds...


  • January 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Honestly, there is some truth to Weldon's words; but we shouldn't generalize, you're right, webspin. It's just as much about culture and political beliefs as it is about race. Just look at Arizona! I mean, they actually banned "ethnic" studies!!! And then there's all this legislated racial profiling. It's no different from when the Nazis forced Jewish people and so-called Gypsies (the Roma) to wear armbands.

    Nationalism is nationalism. The question is, how long before it becomes a fascist movement? There's only a couple degrees of difference between the two.


  • MIke
    September 16, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Wow. I'm overwhelmed.
    I'm European German , and a Jew. At least before I found my Dad was adopted by Italian immigrants.
    Then I found some old records , "MY DAD 's Mom! His mom Beatrice Iva Lo Castle Copland was at the age of 80, and lived in Montana. I tried to contact her but ,she did not answer. So , I have always felt this weird feeling pulling my toward The Indian Nation my who live. I'm very Spiritual. I believe in the tree of life. In hope all men will again return to it as brothers. All though It was not through traditions ,forgive me. Through a son of man instead of the star being. I'm not saying any of this to claim a god or religion , I don't have any faith in those things. I just wanted to say I plan to teach my children about your people and to have respect for them. I'm very sorry for you holy places for being desecrated.... all I can do is teach my boy's a different views. Thank you for allowing me to talk...Bless you and your people.


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