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June 21 set for 2007 National Prayer Day for Native Sacred Places

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WASHINGTON - Observances and ceremonies will be held across the country June 21 to mark the 2007 National Day of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places. The exact times and days for public commemorations are listed below.

Some of the gatherings highlighted are educational forums, not religious ceremonies, and are open to the general public. Others are ceremonial and may be conducted in private. In addition to those listed below, there will be commemorations and prayers offered at sacred places that are under threat at this time.

Among the endangered places listed in the pages of this statement are sacred places that are being desecrated and damaged now, such as Hickory Ground in Alabama; San Francisco Peaks in Arizona; and Wakarusa Wetlands in Kansas.

There are other holy places which are being threatened with injury or destruction: Bear Butte in South Dakota; Little Creek Mountain in Tennessee; the Medicine Lake Highlands in northern California; Ocmulgee Old Fields in Georgia; the Petroglyphs in New Mexico; and Snoqualmie Falls in Washington.

''Native and non-Native people nationwide are gathering to honor sacred places, with a special emphasis on those that are endangered by actions that can be avoided,'' said Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee. She is president of The Morning Star Institute, which organizes the National Prayer Days.

This will be the 5th National Day of Prayer for Sacred Places. The observance in Washington, D.C., will be held on the U.S. Capitol grounds, on the West Front Grassy Area (see details under the Washington, D.C., listing below).

The first National Prayer Day was conducted June 20, 2003, on the U.S. Capitol West Lawn and nationwide to emphasize the need for Congress to enact a cause of action to protect Native sacred places. That need still exists.

''Many Native American sacred places are being damaged because Native nations do not have equal access under the First Amendment to defend them,'' Harjo said. ''All other people in the United States have the First Amendment to protect their churches. Only traditional Native Americans cannot get into the courthouse through the Freedom of Religion Clauses. That simply must change as a matter of fairness and equity.''

In 1988, the Supreme Court told Congress it had to enact a statutory right of action if it wanted to protect Native sacred places. ''Nineteen years have passed without Congress creating that door to the courthouse for Native Americans,'' Harjo said, ''and some of these places cannot withstand many more years of legal and physical onslaughts.

''Native and non-Native people are gathering, again, to call on anyone who will listen to help protect these national treasures and to do something about this national disgrace that threatens them.''

Alabama: Wetumpka - Hickory Ground Ceremonial Ground

The traditional religious leaders of Oce Vbofv Cuko Rakko (Hickory Ground Ceremonial Ground) are continuing their work to negotiate for the protection of their pre-removal lands near Wetumpka, Ala., and the dozens of human remains which have been disinterred without their consent. Although summer requires their attention to be focused on annual ceremonies to close the old year and start the new year, they have been able to find time to travel to Wetumpka and participate in the negotiation sessions.

As other Muscogee people gather for ceremonies, the tragic case of the Hickory Ground site is discussed in wider and wider circles. Absent from the Southeast for 170 years, and separated by 800 miles, many traditional people in Oklahoma were unaware of the destruction of sacred places and the looting of burials in their ancient homelands.

But discussions have also spread into the Christian community about the documented reports of complete disrespect for human remains and burials, and a growing consensus between the major Muscogee religious communities is that Muscogee common law regards a burial as a permanent resting place for the dead, to remain undisturbed.

The Inter-Tribal Sacred Land Trust, www.itslt.org, is working to promote the protection of sacred sites throughout the southeastern United States, and to develop model policies and procedures, which could have applications across the nation.

Arizona: San Francisco Peaks

The Save the Peaks Coalition is gathering at Buffalo Park at the feet of Nuvatukaovi, Doko'oo'sliid, the San Francisco Peaks, June 21, from 5 p.m. to sunset.

The San Francisco Peaks are sacred to Apache, Hopi, Hualapai, Navajo, Yavapai and other Native nations. The San Francisco Peaks are home to many sacred beings, medicine places and origin sites. Myriad ceremonies are conducted there for healing, well-being, balance, commemoration, passages and the world's water and life cycles.

U.S. Forest Service and private business plans are under way to expand the Snowbowl ski resort and to use recycled sewage to make artificial snow. These plans could have a disastrous impact on the Native religions and people and on the water and health of the entire region. The creeping recreational development has concerned Native spiritual leaders and tribal officials for decades, but current plans far exceed the past activity at the resort. The area is within the Coconino National Forest.

Native nations are attempting to protect the San Francisco Peaks in court. The District Court ruled for the development in January 2006. The 9th Circuit decided for the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation and others in March 2007, ruling that the Forest Service violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in allowing the Snowbowl Resort to expand more than 100 acres of rare alpine ecosystem, part of the area which is sacred to Native peoples. The federal government is challenging that decision.

Numerous ceremonies and gatherings will be taking place on June 21 at the San Francisco Peaks.

The Save the Peaks Coalition gathers in support with the Save the Peaks Coalition for One World well-being and the Mother and All Her Children in Peace. Visit Save the Peaks Coalition online at www.savethepeaks.org.

California: Needles - sunrise

The Fort Mojave Indian Tribe remains in emergency need of support to protect the Maze sacred area along the Lower Colorado River. The Maze is both a physical manifestation and a spiritual pathway for the afterlife. It has always been, and will always be, an integral and significant part of the Mojave way of life, beliefs, traditions, culture and religion. The Mojave will observe the Prayer Day in Needles at the Maze property June 21, and pray for continued guidance, preservation and national support to defend this sacred area.

Pacific Gas & Electric, by its ownership and operation of the Topock Natural Gas Compressor Station near Needles over the last 50 years, has polluted the groundwater under and around the Maze with hexavalent chromium, a toxic chemical that can cause numerous human and environmental health problems. PG&E, the Bureau of Land Management and California Department of Toxic Substances Control proceeded with interim measures to remediate the contamination, which recent measures include the construction of a new treatment plant within the Maze area.

PG&E acquired land from Metropolitan Water District containing portions of the Maze, as well as more than 100 recorded pre-contact sites, for the sole purpose of building this plant. This construction has resulted in desecration of and damage to the sacred Maze area. Moreover, construction occurred without engaging in public environmental review by waiving state and federal environmental laws, meaningful government-to-government consultation with the tribes or timely National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 review, and without adequate consideration of other effective alternatives to safeguard the health of the Colorado River. Also, additional wells and other activities are also now being proposed for the Arizona side of the river. These, together, would create cumulative adverse impacts to the sacred landscape and tribal beliefs.

In 2005, Fort Mojave filed a lawsuit seeking the removal of the plant, total restoration of the sacred area, an environmental baseline of prior to the plant's construction, and any other actions that could serve to remedy the desecration. Settlement negotiations concluded in November 2006 which would achieve each of these goals and other remedies including repatriation of the sacred area to tribal ownership, sensitivity training for PG&E employees and contractors, a written public apology and reimbursement of past and future tribal costs.

Even though settlement was achieved, deep prayer is needed to ask for further understanding by PG&E and the agencies as to the nature of this traditional cultural landscape and that they should not be afraid to acknowledge it as such. Prayer is also needed to ask for forgiveness for any continuing desecration that may occur until the offending facilities are actually removed and that a final remedy is selected soon that respects the sacred nature of this area.

This issue is national in scope: the Maze has been officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978 and is formally recognized as nationally significant. Moreover, the failure of state and federal agencies to consider direct and indirect impacts to Native sacred places during pollution remediation activities is a national problem requiring congressional oversight.

For more information, call Linda Otero, director of the AhaMakav Cultural Society, at (928) 768-4475 or Courtney Ann Coyle, tribal attorney, at (858) 454-8687.

Colorado: Boulder - Native American Rights Fund, 6 a.m.

The National Day of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places is being observed at the Native American Rights Fund June 21. The public is welcome to a sunrise ceremony that will be held on NARF's front lawn beginning at 6 a.m. The program is expected to last for one hour with a prayer ceremony, speakers and a moment of silence to show concern for the sacred places that are being damaged and destroyed today.

NARF is headquartered at 1506 Broadway in Boulder. NARF extends an open invitation to its program and requests that participants bring a chair or a blanket to the front lawn and to bring food and/or beverages to share at the completion of the program.

As part of its mission, NARF advocates for sacred site protection, religious freedom efforts and cultural rights. NARF attorneys and staff participate in local and national gatherings and discussions about how to protect lands that are sacred and precious to American Indians.

NARF utilizes its resources to protect First Amendment rights of American Indian religious leaders, prisoners and members of the Native American Church, and to assert tribal rights to cultural property and human remains in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Why should holy places be protected? How well do existing laws and federal agency regulations protect Native American places of worship? These and other questions will be addressed by NARF attorneys Steve Moore and Walter Echo-Hawk, Pawnee, who are active in the Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark, Devil's Tower, the Spirit Cave case, Kennewick Man case and the work of the Sacred Lands Protection Coalition, of which NARF is a member. NARF also represents the Working Group on Native American Culturally Unidentified Human Remains.

NARF is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to assist American Indians, individuals and organizations in the legal representation and interpretation of federal Indian law. NARF is headquartered in Boulder, with offices in Washington, D.C., and Anchorage, Alaska. For more information, call NARF at (303) 447-8760.

Iowa: McGregor - Effigy Mounds (June 20 - 21)

The Mississippi River Sacred Sites Run 2007 will resume its presence along the river at sunset June 20, at Pikes Peak State Park's Effigy Mounds in McGregor.

In this area, indigenous peoples of the Woodland Culture of 800 - 1200 A.D. sculpted earthen ''effigy'' mounds on ridgetops, in the shapes of animals, to celebrate their oneness with Mother Earth. Many of these mounds remain today as a monument to these people and a reminder to us that we are also of the earth.

Five miles north, on June 21 at 7:30 a.m., participants will gather at Effigy Mounds National Monument Museum for a walk up to the Fire Point Effigies to honor the ancestors.

The mounds are ceremonial sites by many Americans, especially the monument's 16 associated American Indian tribes. The 2,526-acre monument includes 206 American Indian mounds situated in a natural setting and located along the ''Great River Road'' of the Mississippi River.

The Mississippi River Sacred Sites Run 2007 will travel northward to Minneapolis/St. Paul's numerous sacred sites, which are now destroyed. Join them July 7 for the Twin Cities Sacred Sites Tour, Through Indigenous Eyes. The run will travels farther up river to Duluth, Minn., and to Milwaukee, Wis.

For more information, contact Ben Yahola at (414) 383-7072 or humoti@yahoo.com; in the Minneapolis area, contact delliott@usfamily.net.

Kansas: Lawrence - Wakarusa Wetlands

Save the Wakarusa Wetlands Inc. - an association of Lawrence, Kan.,-based Haskell Indian Nations University alumni, students and community supporters - will observe National Prayer Day at sunrise June 21 in the wetlands south of Lawrence.

The ceremony will be led by Jimm Goodtracks, Otoe-Missouria, assisted by Mike Smith, Dene, and is open to all who wish to add their prayers to save this sacred place from the highway builders. Jeremy Shield, Crow, will again sing a song to greet the sun.

Participants will ask for the protection of the Wakarusa Wetlands (aka Haskell-Baker Wetlands), threatened by an eight-lane highway project approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but delayed by state budget constraints.

After years of claiming the trafficway had been ''de-federalized,'' in an attempt to render federal laws protecting Native sites inapplicable, the Federal Highway Administration is back in the game. It recently announced its intent to adopt an outdated and severely flawed Corps of Engineers environmental impact statement in order to expedite federal funds for the beleaguered project.

As has happened so often in this long struggle, the announcement of a decision, promised by March, had been postponed until after Haskell students left for summer vacation. A lawsuit is pending if KDOT proceeds with construction.

This sacred place is the last significant trace of the original Wakarusa Bottoms, an 18,000-acre prairie wetland environment that existed for thousands of years before the draining and damming of the wetlands, which supplied Native peoples of the region with valuable medicines and important ceremonial items.

Elders have said the Creator caused the course of the Wakarusa River to go directly east toward the rising sun, in sharp contrast to the other rivers in the region, as a sign of sacred healing plants and herbs to be gathered there.

About 600 acres of the Wakarusa Wetlands was located directly south of the dorms at Haskell Institute. The last major remnant of this wetland became a refuge where young Indian people from all across the country survived government efforts to exterminate their cultures during the off-reservation boarding school years. There, in the wetland refuge, young Indian people from Maine to California sang forbidden songs, performed dances that were federally punishable with jail time and refused to let the authorities ''kill the Indian'' in them. Parents and other tribal leaders camped, often for weeks, beside these wetlands on the bank of the Wakarusa awaiting permission from school officials to retrieve or at least visit their children.

Despite efforts to drain the wetland in the early 20th century, and Haskell's loss of this property during the termination era, the Wakarusa Wetland, like Haskell Indian Nations University itself, has survived and flourished. The entire historic Haskell campus, including the wetlands, is reportedly being considered for designation as a National Historic Heritage area.

Contact Michael Caron at (785) 842-6293 or mcaron@sunflower.com with Save the Wakarusa Wetlands in the subject line, or visit www.savethewetlands.org; Lori Tapahonso, executive assistant/public information officer, Haskell Indian Nations University, at (785) 830-2715 or LTapahonso@HASKELL.edu; or RaeLynn Butler, president, Haskell Wetland Preservation Organization, Haskell Indian Nations University, at Rbutler@HASKELL.edu.

South Dakota: Missouri River - Fort Berthold Reservation and Ihanktonwan (Yankton Sioux) Reservation

The Fort Berthold Reservation, Upper Missouri River Region, North Dakota - Home of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation - will host a sunrise prayer ceremony June 21. Details regarding this event are available from Pemina Yellow Bird at (701) 497-3461 or pemina@hotmail.com.

Ihanktonwan (Yankton Sioux) Reservation

Commemoration of the National Day of Prayer for Sacred Places and the Summer Solstice for Native People will take place at Ihanktonwan Reservation (Yankton Sioux) June 21 for the Missouri River and Pipestone Quarry.

Home to many tribal nations for thousands of years, the Missouri River Corridor is one of the largest threatened territories in the struggle for the preservation and protection of ancestral burials and sacred and cultural places.

Public and private ceremonies, press conferences and educational events will be held on tribal lands and at sacred places along the river, hosted by Missouri River tribes.

Irreplaceable cultural and sacred areas are impacted every day be erosion from the six mainstem dams built on the upper river as a result of the Pick-Sloan Act of 1946. Shoreline development, recreational use of the reservoirs and agricultural impacts also add to the vulnerability of sacred places that are intrinsic to the Missouri River tribes' spiritual and cultural practices.

And though Missouri River tribes have forged a new management agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the preservation of sacred and cultural resources on the river, these holy and irreplaceable places remain vulnerable to looting and vandalism as million of Americans come to the reservoirs for recreation and fishing.

At summer solstice sunrise, June 21, two events will take place: At sunrise, the Yankton Cultural Committee, the White Swan teams, the White Swan Camp, Brave Heart Society, Sundance and prayer leaders will offer prayers for protection/return of sacred sites and tribal lands. Prayers will be at the White Swan Camp.

Later that same day, June 21, as ''Keepers of the Pipestone Quarry,'' the Ihanktonwan runners will be returning home to the Galen Drapeau Sun Dance after running since June 2, spreading awareness and prayers for the protection of Pipestone Quarry. It is the spiritual run for the Sacred Pipe. For generations, the Yanktons have been protectors of the quarry. The Yanktons are in consultation with the monument officials and we pray for a good result.

For more information on the Spiritual Run, call John Rouse at (605) 487-7816, Michael Rouse at (605) 491-2430 or Wes Hare III at (605) 384-3605. Contacts for sunrise prayers at White Swan are Faith Spotted Eagle, eagletrax@hotmail.com or (605) 481-0416; Michael Rouse/David Arrow, (605) 491-2430; and Sharon Drappeau, (605) 487-7031.

Washington, D.C.: U.S. Capitol, West Front Grassy Area - The Morning Star Institute

The observance in Washington, D.C., will take place at the U.S. Capitol on the West Front Grassy Area on June 21 at 8 a.m. The public is invited to attend this respectful observance to honor sacred places and sacred beings and all those who care for them and protect them from harm.

This observance is organized by The Morning Star Institute, a national Native rights organization founded in 1984 and dedicated to Native peoples' cultural and traditional rights, including religious freedom and sacred places protection.

The observance will take the form of a talking circle. All are welcome to offer words, songs or a moment of silence for all sacred places, but especially for those that are being desecrated or damaged at this time.

Contact The Morning Star Institute at (202) 547-5531 or Suzan Shown Harjo at suzan_harjo@yahoo.com.

A co-sponsor of the commemoration in Washington is the Friends Committee on National Legislation. (Tthe Quaker lobbying organization.) The FCNL issued this statement:

''Faith-based organizations oppose the destruction and desecration of sacred places. Quakers have supported legislative efforts to protect religious practices and sacred areas, which are tied to the history, culture and spirituality of indigenous people in the U.S. The Friends Committee on National Legislation advocated for Native American religious freedom through the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

''Tourists tour famous churches all over Europe. They walk quietly through the Washington Cathedral and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Many people also travel to beautiful nature spots - some of which border or encompass sites sacred to indigenous people. Tourists, people of good will and other non-Natives can appreciate Native sacred sites from a distance. To understand, we believe the public will especially benefit from the film, ''In Light of Reverence,'' and by learning more about struggles at places such as Bear Butte, S.D.

''The government is obligated to stop practices such as building roads through sacred sites and allowing ski areas to be build on sacred sites. FCNL strongly supports President Clinton's executive order that agencies must avoid harm to the physical integrity of sacred sites and must guarantee access and use of such sites by Indian spiritual practitioners.''

Contact Patricia Powers, Friends Committee on National Legislation, 245 Second St., Washington, D.C., 20002, at pat@fcnl.org or (202) 547-6000.

Co-sponsoring the commemoration in Washington again is the General Commission on Religion and Race of The United Methodist Church, which issued the following statement:

''As stated in The 2004 United Methodist Book of Resolutions, the Church supports 'the God-given and constitutional rights of religious freedom for American Indians, including the preserving of traditional Native American sacred sites of worship' (148, page 382). National Day of Prayer to Protect Sacred Places is a day for the Church to stand in solidarity with Natives to strengthen this protection. The General Commission on Religion and Race encourages United Methodists, Christians and all people to join in this observance and ask Congress to protect Native sacred places.''

Washington: Snoqualmie Falls

'Honor Snoqualmie Falls - Let the Spirit Flow, For All People, For All Time'

The Snoqualmie Tribe honors the Spirit of Snoqualmie Falls on the National Day of Prayer for the Protection of Native Sacred Places June 21 at 11:40 a.m. Bring food to share afterwards.

The Snoqualmie Tribe is presently awaiting a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision regarding the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license to Puget Sound Energy for hydroelectric project 2493.

Snoqualmie Falls Ambassador Lois Sweet Dorman invites everyone to join in humble prayer and song with the many indigenous peoples from around the globe who are fighting to keep their sacred places and sacred connections strong.

''Many Native Peoples fight the same fight,'' Sweet Dorman said. ''We need our places and our places need us. We do our ceremonies, handed down through the generations, to keep our sacred cycles strong and thereby ourselves strong. We do this for everyone, all our relations.''

Snoqualmie Falls is where the Transformer created the first man and the first woman and then climbed back to his Star Father's people where he can still be seen through the hole his Snoqualmie mother poked in the sky with her digging stick. He is Moon, the Transformer the Changer, providing light in the darkness for the people of the Valley of the Moon. ''This is our Snoqualmie Creation history,'' Sweet Dorman said.

''Snoqualmie Falls is a sacred place, where the water's journey completes its sacred cycle at the base of the falls and a transformation of Spirit takes place. The mist creates the connection between worlds and at the same time delivers prayers and blessings.''

Snoqualmie Falls is deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as a Traditional Cultural Property. It is visited by more than 1.5 million people from around the world each year. It is 268 feet high, which is 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls, and is easily accessible from the Seattle metropolitan area. Snoqualmie Falls is on the ''23 Most Endangered Sacred Places'' list from the National Congress of American Indians.

''We encourage people to go to the falls and be renewed and carry that healing spirit to others,'' Sweet Dorman said.

For more information, contact Lois Sweet Dorman, Snoqualmie, at nightfishes@qwest.net.

We are mindful of all Sacred Places, Waters and Beings, including: Medicine Lake, a Pitt River Nation ceremonial and healing place in the Modoc National Forest in northeastern California; Indian Pass, which was named on the 2002 list of America's Most Endangered Historic Places; Coastal Chumash lands in the Gaviota Coastal region in southern California; Yurok Nation's salmon fisheries in the Klamath River; Berry Creek, Moore Town and Enterprise Rancherias' lands; The sacred Puvungna of the Tongva and Acjachemen Peoples; The sacred Katuktu (Morro Hill) of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians; Mount Graham, Arizona - Apache holy land; Hualapai Nation landforms in Truxton and Crozier Canyons of Arizona; The Boboquivari Mountain of the Tohono O'odham Nation; Zuni Salt Lake; Carrizo/Comecrudo lands flooded by Amistad Lake and Falcon Dam in Texas; Badlands; Black Hills; Medicine Wheel; Semiahmah Village burial ground; Cold Water Springs in Minnesota; and Ocmulgee National Monument and Ocmulgee Old Fields in Georgia.

The Morning Star Institute, 611 Pennsylvania Ave., SE #377, Washington, D.C., 20002 (202) 547-5531.