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Nations unite

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CANASTOTA, N.Y. - Observances and ceremonies took place across the country June 20 and 21, marking the 2008 National Days of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places.

The first national prayer day took place June 20, 2003, to emphasize the need for Congress to enact a cause of action to protect Native sacred places.

;'Native and non-Native people nationwide gather at this time for solstice ceremonies. We honor sacred places, with a special emphasis on the need for Congress to build a door to the courts for Native nations to protect our churches,'' said Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, in a release. Harjo is the president of The Morning Star Institute, which organized the prayer days.

''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.''

Some gatherings were educational, and were open to the general public. Others were religious or ceremonial, and conducted in private. Such gatherings took place in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Washington, D.C., Washington state and Wisconsin.

Traditional religious leaders of Oce Vbofv Cuko Rakko (Hickory Ground Ceremonial Ground) took part in negotiation sessions for the protection of their pre-removal lands near Wetumpka, Ala., and the human remains that have been unearthed without consent. Discussions arose about the consensus among the Muscogee religious communities that burial is a permanent resting place for the dead and should remain undisturbed.

The San Francisco Peaks (Nuvatukaovi, Doko'oo'sliid) in north-central Arizona are sacred to the Apache, Hopi, Hualapai, Navajo, Yavapai and other Native nations. The U.S. Forest Service and a private business plan to expand the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort there and use recycled sewage to make artificial snow. This would disrupt ceremonies that take place there. Ceremonies and gatherings for solstice prayer took place at the peaks.

The Fort Mojave Indian Tribe remains in need of support to protect the Topock Maze and surrounding sacred site areas along the Lower Colorado River. The Maze is both a spiritual pathway and a physical manifestation for the afterlife. The Mojave observed the prayer day in Needles, Calif., at the Maze property.

The prayer day was observed at the Native American Rights Fund main office in Boulder, Colo. The program included a prayer ceremony, speakers and a moment of silence.

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Save the Wakarusa Wetlands Inc. observed the prayer day in the Wakarusa Wetlands south of Lawrence, Kan. Save the Wakarusa Wetlands Inc. is an association of Lawrence-based Haskell Indian Nations University alumni, students and community supporters.

The Acoma, Laguna and Zuni pueblos, the Hopi Tribe and the Navajo Nation are actively seeking protections for Mount Taylor, located in New Mexico. They are concerned that the renewed uranium rush in the area will threaten the sacred mountain.

A Gahnonyoh (Thanksgiving) took place at Ganondagan State Historic Site in upstate New York under the Tree of Peace on Boughton Hill uniting the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk nations.

The Tulsa Indian Coalition Against Racism hosted a ceremony and dinner at the Jeannie Garfield Gray Native American Church Site in Pawhuska, Okla., to pray for sacred places.

A gathering took place at Bear Butte State Park in South Dakota to honor the sacred mountain and to pray for healing.

Also in South Dakota, members of the Ihanktonwan Dakota/Yankton Sioux offered prayers for the protection of the area affected by the intrusion of a hog farm from corporate farmers.

An observance in Washington, D.C., took place at the U.S. Capitol on the West Front Grassy Area. The public was invited to attend the talking circle observance to honor sacred places and sacred beings.

The Spirit of Snoqualmie Falls in Washington state were honored with a dinner following the ceremony. The Snoqualmie creation story originated from the falls.

A few events were held in Wisconsin to protect the Aztalan Mounds. A sunrise ceremony and run took place, followed by a benefit concert. A forum was also held to allow people from various organizations and communities to share their struggles.

The following articles take a closer look at some of the events and the reasons behind having the National Days of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places.