Native American Traditions

Biden reinstates 2 national monuments sacred to Native Americans, reversing Trump-era decision

October 9, 2021

President Joe Biden on Friday restored two sprawling national monuments in Utah, reversing a decision by President Donald Trump that opened for mining and other development hundreds of thousands of acres of rugged lands sacred to Native Americans and home to ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.

The Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments in southern Utah encompass more than 3.2 million acres — an area nearly the size of Connecticut — and were created by Democratic administrations under a century-old law that allows presidents to protect sites considered historic...

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Navajo Leaders Seek Hearing On Oil and Gas Disputes

October 6, 2021

Top officials with the largest Native American tribe in the United States are renewing a request for congressional leaders to hold a field hearing before deciding on federal legislation aimed at limiting oil and gas development around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

The Navajo Nation has struggled for years with high poverty rates and joblessness, and the tribe’s legislative leaders say individual Navajo allottees stand to lose an important source of income if a 10-mile (16-kilometer) buffer is created around the park as proposed. They’re calling for a smaller area of...

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Catholic, Protestant groups support commission on US Indian boarding school policy

October 4, 2021

A number of Catholic groups and Protestant denominations are calling for the United States to establish a Truth and Healing Commission to reckon with the country’s history of boarding schools that separated thousands of Indigenous children from their families and cultures during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Their support comes as the Catholic Church and a number of Protestant denominations are ...

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Wisconsin activists: Proposed Back Forty Mine in Michigan UP a risk to waters, Menominee sites

September 28, 2021

A coalition of Indigenous and non-Indigenous environmental activists are rallying against a proposed new project in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula they believe could lead to activities that could pollute Wisconsin waterways.

The Coalition to Save the Menominee River formed in April 2017 to oppose the Back Forty Mine project, which is...

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These tribal activists want Biden to stop a planned lithium mine on their sacred land

September 3, 2021

Off a lonely highway in northern Nevada, a collection of brightly colored tents, a horse trailer and latrines suddenly comes into view. It’s a stark contrast to the pale, sagebrush covered mountains.

“I’ve been camped here for about a month and a half now,” says Gary McKinney, who’s ducked under the shade of his tent, its nylon fabric flapping in the near constant wind.

McKinney, a Shoshone-Paiute tribal member from the Duck Valley Reservation in Nevada, wears black sunglasses and an American Indian Movement ski hat and tank top, exposing his tattooed, muscled arms...

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First Nations Version translates the New Testament for Native American readers

August 31, 2021

It’s a Bible verse familiar to many Christians — and even to many non-Christians who have seen John 3:16 on billboards and T-shirts or scrawled across eye black under football players’ helmets.

But Terry Wildman hopes the new translation published Tuesday (Aug. 31) by InterVarsity Press, “First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament,” will help Christians and Indigenous peoples read it again in a...

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Mount Graham: Apaches say a sacred place was first stolen, then defiled

August 20, 2021

Dził Nchaa Si An, or Big Seated Mountain in Apache, is shown on most maps as Mount Graham. At 10,720 feet above sea level, it dominates the otherwise flat landscape in southeastern Arizona’s Gila River Valley. 

As one of the Southwest's "Sky Islands," it holds biological riches. The climate ranges from desert at the lowest elevation to subalpine at the highest, where green woods offer cool relief from the searing deserts below and precious springs trickle down the slopes to feed rivers like the Gila. Native species like the Mount Graham red squirrel cling...

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San Francisco Peaks: A Sacred place is imperiled by snow made with recycled sewage

August 20, 2021

For people who live and travel around northern Arizona, the San Francisco Peaks dominate the landscape like no other landmark. The snow-capped tops are visible for hundreds of miles in the winter; their cool green slopes are a popular summer destination for hikers and overheated Phoenix residents.

For many tribes, the peaks are far more significant and occupy a sacred place in history and culture. Whether called Dook'o'oosłííd in Diné, Nuva'tukya'ovi in Hopi, Wik'hanbaja by the Hualapai or Nuvaxatuh by the Southern Paiute, the volcanic mountain range has for millennia drawn...

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Climate change is endangering sacred land. For these Native women, it threatens 'everything we are.'

July 30, 2021

Since time immemorial — before the European colonization of what is now known as the United States — tribes of the Pit River Nation have made annual pilgrimages to Medicine Lake in Northern California. The Pit River creation story says that the Creator and his son bathed themselves in the lake after making the Earth. Each year in late July, Pit River tribes return to the sacred region for healing and ceremonial practice. But two byproducts of climate change prevented them from doing so this year: wildfire and drought.

Morning Star Gali, a member of the Ajumawi Band of...

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How legal and cultural barriers keep Indigenous people from protecting sacred spaces off tribal land

August 17, 2021

Tourists speeding toward Grand Canyon National Park rarely notice the rocky protuberance that juts above the flat expanse of Arizona's Coconino Plateau.

But to the Havasu 'Baaja, known to the world as the Havasupai Tribe or "People of the Blue-Green Water," the isolated hill forms the center of their lands and spiritual life.

Red Butte (Wii'I Gdwiisa or "Clenched Fist Mountain") is the abdomen of Mother Earth. Mat Taav Tiivjunmdva, a meadow about 3 miles north of the distinctive mountain close to...

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Lummi Nation totem pole arrives in D.C. after journey to sacred lands across U.S.

July 29, 2021

A 25-foot totem pole, intricately hand-carved and painted by Native Americans, arrived in the nation’s capital Wednesday afternoon after a two-week cross-country journey from Washington state, as part of a campaign to protect sacred tribal lands.

Hauled on a flatbed trailer, the roughly 5,000-pound totem pole was brought to the front entrance of the National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall, where a small crowd came to welcome it. Douglas James, a Lummi Nation member who was one of the pole’s carvers and traveled with the group that brought it across the United States...

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Pueblo youth are at the forefront of protecting Indigenous lands

July 25, 2021

Pueblo people are the direct descendants of Bears Ears, Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde therefore, it is within our cultural interest to protect these sacred landscapes. 

Under the Obama administration, Bears Ears was designated as a national monument, a cultural classification under the Antiquities Act. The advocacy for protecting Bears Ears was led by Indigenous nations with a historical and cultural stake in how the landscape is managed. These actions for land protections were motivated by ensuring stricter environmental rules and preserving the cultural and spiritual...

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New wave of anti-protest laws may infringe on religious freedoms for Indigenous people

July 12, 2021

Over four days in June 2021, thousands of protesters attended the Treaty People Gathering in opposition to Line 3, a crude oil pipeline slated to be built across traditional homelands of the Ojibwe peoples in northern Minnesota.

To begin the gathering, Indigenous elders led a public religious ceremony. They said prayers and sang songs that blessed and sanctified the headwaters of the Mississippi River. They also prayed for the people involved in the protest – over 100 of whom were later arrested for trespassing and other acts of civil disobedience.

Source: ...

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Amid plans to mine lithium in rural Nevada, Indigenous, rural communities at center of the energy transition

June 22, 2021

Maxine Redstar’s office on the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation sits in a valley surrounded by mineral-rich mountain ranges that stretch past the Oregon border, only a few miles to the north.

It’s May, and after a short spurt of precipitation in an otherwise record dry year for Nevada, the valley has turned pastel-green with sagebrush dotting the land. Near the administration building and Redstar’s office, a sign is planted in the ground. It reads: “Keep Your Aboriginal Rights!!”

Source: ...

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The American church needs to reckon with its legacy in Indigenous boarding schools

June 24, 2021

(RNS) — Over the last few weeks, devastating news has come out of Canada: Residential schools, also known as boarding schools, often run by churches, have been under investigation, and the remains of hundreds of Indigenous children have been unearthed in the process. The most recent discovery, of 751 bodies in unmarked graves at a former residential school in Saskatchewan, reveals the ongoing legacy of settler colonialism.

While the Canadian government and churches in Canada attempt to respond to this, First Nations peoples are demanding Canada come to terms with its history...

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