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3 U.S. Sacred Sites That Need Our Protection

Blog0813_SacredSite_NoBullDozerAlthough today’s fast-paced, technology-driven culture seems to have no room for spirituality, sacred sites located throughout the world show us that humans have always found it important to reflect, and consider our ultimate purpose in this world.

These places, crafted by our ancestors, are of important societal and historical significance. They teach us where we come from, what we, as a species, have believed through the ages, and what many Native peoples continue to practice today. They also demonstrate how much more importantly the health of our natural environment used to figure into our future plans.

Unfortunately, our rampant population growth, unchecked use of fossil fuels, and parasitic development have begun to put many of these sacred sites at risk of being paved over and forgotten.

Blog0813_SacredSite_BearButteBear Butte - South Dakota

Rising a majestic 1,400 feet from the surrounding plains just east of the northern Black Hills has served for centuries as a place of worship for as many as 17 American Indian tribes and continues to be one of the most active Native American sacred sites in the United States. Bear Butte is also used by non-Natives as a place for prayer, worship and general visitation. Unfortunately, Bear Butte is located right in the midst of the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, a popular event that brings noise pollution and adversely affects the sacred area's viewshed.

Blog0813_SacredSite_MtGrahamMount Graham - Arizona

Called Dzil Nchaa Si'an ("big seated mountain") by Western Apaches, rises 10,720 feet over the deserts of Southeast Arizona in the Coronado National Forest and is sacred to members of both the San Carlos and White Mountain Apache Tribes. Despite opposition from conservation advocates, the site has earmarked as the future home of research telescopes, an installation that would disrupt the natural topography. A second issue for Mount Graham is that two new 500-kV transmission lines have been proposed to move solar energy through the Gila Valley, potentially resulting in as many as 500 giant towers skirting the sacred mountain.

Blog0813_SacredSite_HaleakalaHaleakala Crater - Hawaii

Haleakalā is a dormant volcano on the southeastern tip of Maui, known to Native Hawaiians as the "House of the Sun". Ancient priests have received spiritual wisdom and practiced meditation on the crater and summit for more than 1,000 years, and Native Hawaiians continue to use the mountain for spiritual practices today. Like Mount Graham, however, Haleakala has caught the eye of researchers who would like construct advanced technology telescopes in and around it. This would require the complete desecration of a site that is considered to be the home of gods and goddesses by Native Hawaiians living in Maui.

If you’d like to know more about sacred sites in the U.S. that are threatened, and what you can do to help preserve them, please visit www.preservationnation.org

Beth Buczynski is an environmental writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. Follow her on Twitter as @ecosphericblog.

Photo: No Bulldozer by  dignidadrebelde; Bear Butte by Robert Nunnally; Mount Graham Panorama by i_a_caradoc; Haleakala Crater Hawaii by Aaron Logan

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