Across Turtle Island observances and ceremonies are being held to mark the 2016 National Days of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places. The observance in Washington, D.C. will be held this evening, June 20 at 6:30 p.m., on the United States Capitol Grounds, across from the U.S. Supreme Court at First Street, NE and Constitution Avenue, NE.
“Native and non-Native people gather at the Solstice and other times for ceremonies and events to honor sacred places. Everyone can participate in the National Prayer Days as a reminder to honor these precious lands and waters all the time by simply respecting them and not allowing them to be harmed,” said Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee) in a press release about Prayer Days. She is president of The Morning Star Institute, which has organized the National Sacred Places Prayer Days since 2003. “Observances are necessary,” she said, “in order to call attention to Native Peoples’ myriad struggles with developers that are endangering or harming Native sacred places.”
In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutional or statutory cause of action to defend Native sacred places. “Native Peoples are the only people or group in the U.S. who do not have a door to the courthouse to protect sacred places or site-specific ceremonies,” Dr. Harjo said in the release. “That must change as a simple matter of fairness and equity. Without a broad statute, Native Peoples have had to cobble together laws and regulations to protect sacred places on a piecemeal basis, and oftentimes courts find these solutions to be insufficient.”
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has called on the United States to consult with Native peoples about sacred sites, and even return them. The National Congress of American Indians has called for a statutory cause of action and strengthened Executive Order on sacred sites, and has offered advice to federal agencies on how to use existing laws and policies to protect sacred places.
The U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 11, Section 2, states that countries “shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with Indigenous Peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.”
Prayer will be offered for a number of sacred places across Turtle Island. On June 29, the National Congress of American Indians will hold a Sunrise Ceremony at 6:45 a.m. at the Spokane River Centennial Trail in Spokane, Washington during its 2016 Mid-Year Conference. The public is invited to attend the respectful observance to honor sacred places, sacred beings, and sacred waters, and all those who care for them and protect them.
Stay tuned to ICTMN for more information about specific sacred places that need your prayers.