Government promises to improve protection of sacred Native sites (Video)

Several weeks after rock carvings were stolen from California site sacred to a local tribe, four key agencies have signed an agreement to better protect and preserve sites held holy by American Indians and Native Alaskans.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) could open the way to “collaborative stewardship” of the sites, and calls for expanded training for federal employees and the creation of a website explaining agencies’ responsibilities to protect the sites. It was signed Thursday by the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy and the Interior, as well as the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

On the same day, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Forest Service released a report offering recommendations on preserving sacred areas, compiled with the help of a long list of Tribal leaders.

The report recommends that federal agencies communicate more with local tribes about the sites and consult with them about policies. It calls for tougher enforcement of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

It also challenges these agencies to make sacred sites located on federal lands more accessible to Native Americans.

While the report itself does not alter policies, the memorandum acknowledges its recommendations.

"By honoring and protecting sacred sites on national forests and grasslands, we foster improved tribal relationships and a better understanding of native people's deep reverence for natural resources and contributions to society," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said of the report and his agency's newly pledged commitment in a statement.

The move was welcomed by the Association on American Indian Affairs, a non-profit advocacy group that has fought development projects that impact native sites.

"I think the commitment by the federal government is positive, and it’s long overdue," said Executive Director Jack Trope. "I just hope there are some real teeth in these policies, because that’s what they’ve lacked in the past."

Trope added that he’d like to see the protections applied in the current dispute over the approved use of treated wastewater for recreational snowmaking at San Francisco Peaks, a mountain claimed as sacred by several tribes.

The government “can still weigh in here," he said. "I can’t let them off the hook for failing to deal with things that are ongoing.”

Thieves stole six ancient petroglyphs and damaged dozens more at the Volcanic Tablelands in California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range last month. That site is overseen by the federal Bureau of Land Management. A BLM archaeologist told ABC News the theft was “akin to someone going and cutting pieces out of the Wailing Wall.”

 The Medicine Wheel in Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming, USA
 Raymond Andrews, tribal historic preservation officer of the Bishop Paiute Tribe, visits the North Bishop area that contains petroglyphs etched by ancient people into the volcanic cliff faces. At least four ancient petroglyphs were cut from cliffs at the Volcanic Tableland and dozens of others damaged in 'the worst act of vandalism ever on federal lands in the area.


Responses to "Sites sacred to Native Americans to be better protected, government promises "

  1. Anonymous says:

    i am so sorry for you !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Comtessa says:

    As a professional Tour Director and Interpreter for foreign visitors to the Southwest of the US, I have been trying for years to stop access to individual visitors to Monument Valley except with the Official Navajo guides but to no avail..Also, unfortunately there is also a lot of abuse and waste left behind by the Navajos themselves on the side of Gouldings...
    Many times I have seen graffiti, rubbish , illegal entry by private cars etc and I have no idea who to address this problem..
    The Monument Valley should be considered as a sacred place and treated as such and no entry should be allowed by the RV who get stuck many times and have to be rescued by the Parc Rangers, private cars follow the 4X4 of the tours and try to get free lunches etc..Only the official Navajo tour guides should be allowed entry..It would be a win win situation for all the Navajos involved because the private cars or RV do not buy anything from the vendors and this way the tour companies would make more money and would be able to buy less polluting vehicles and employ more local people..

    Rosemary Graham-Gardner

  3. Anonymous says:


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