Preservation of sacred sites

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On June 11, Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W. Va, introduced legislation in the House of Representatives called the Native American Sacred Lands Act. Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes and president of the National Congress of American Indians and Chairman Darrell Hillaire of the Lummi Nation joined the congressman at a press conference to introduce the legislation.

"I think it is a call for unity between tribal nations and their members of congress to move this legislation forward," Hillaire said.

"This is the essence of who we are," said Hall.

The legislation is designed to protect sacred sites more from mining and other harmful developments on federal lands than from housing development like that at Brandon.

The bill would enact into law a 1996 executive order issued by President Bill Clinton that protected sacred lands with a mandate that all federal land management agencies prevent damage to the sacred lands.

"The tribes would no longer have to depend on the good graces of the federal bureaucrats to protect these lands. They have every right to question the decisions made by the federal government concerning their hallowed lands and this legislation would give them peace of mind and spirit," Rahall said.

At the present time there are 23 American Indian nations that have disputes over sacred sites from across the nation.

"At a time when the Bush administration is promoting increased energy development, we must enact comprehensive legislation that prohibits the loss of further Indian sacred lands. We must not stand idly by as these unique places are wiped off the face of the earth," Rahall said.