Congressional Bill to Protect Sacred Lands

July 22, 2003

Source: Indian Country Today

On July 22, 2003 Indian Country Today reported that "a high-tech telescope on Mount Graham, open pit gold mining in California, federal officials collecting fossils and bones in the Badlands of South Dakota, and logging in the Black Hills and on Bear Butte all qualify as desecration of sacred sites, according to American Indian elders and spiritual leaders... The battle to educate states and federal agencies about sacred lands and the importance to present day American Indian cultures has a sordid and sometimes ignored history. But a bill now in Congress could add some legal clout to tribes that wish to stop the desecration of sacred sites... The bill, the Native American Sacred Lands Protection Act introduced by Rep. Nick Rahall, D-WV would, as it reads, requires that government agencies treat oral history of a geographic area be referred to as Native science and be treated as scientific evidence that a geographic structure or area is sacred... The act, if passed, would precede the implementation of the Native Graves Protection and Restoration Act. It would require consultation with tribes before any activity of mining or resource exploration, logging or any other activity that may alter the cultural and religious significance of the sacred site."