International Institute for
Indigenous Resource Management


Protection of Sacred Landscapes:
Establishing the Tribal Historical, Scientific, Cultural, and Ecological Foundations
Denver, Colorado
October 9-10, 2001
Sponsored by:
International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management
U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Health and Environmental Research
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Facility Restoration and Reuse Office

Sacred natural sites are natural places recognized by indigenous and traditional peoples as having spiritual or religious significance. They can be mountains, rivers, lakes, caves, forest groves, coastal waters and entire islands. The reasons for their sacredness are diverse. They may be perceived as abodes of deities and ancestral spirits; as sources of healing water and plants; places of contact with the spiritual, or communication with the 'beyond-human' reality; and sites of revelation and transformation. As a result of access restrictions, many sacred places have served as important reservoirs of biological diversity. Sacred natural sites such as forest groves, mountains and rivers, are often visible in the landscape as vegetation-rich ecosystems, contrasting dramatically from adjoining, non-sacred, degraded environments. (Gonzalo Oviedo, member of the Task Force of Non-Material Values of Protected Areas of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), at the Panel on Religion, Spirituality and the Environment of the World Civil Society Forum, Geneva, 17 July 2002.)


On October 9 and 10, 2001 the International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management convened a small group of international and tribal cultural and legal experts to examine ways sacred landscapes can be protected. Roundtable participants spent a bit of time discussing the impediments imposed by the present statutory and regulatory regimes, but spent the major part of the two-day meeting identifying alternative ways of protecting sacred landscapes affected by the cleanup and closure of federal facilities. Roundtable participants also identified international, national, state, and tribal covenants, declarations, treaties, laws, and policies that support tribal efforts to protect their sacred landscapes and the amendments to these instruments that would support the alternative theories. Finally, Roundtable participants suggested institutions and persons best positioned to take on parts of the research agenda required to effectuate those changes.

Many facilities and installations now occupied by the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and other federal agencies are being cleaned up and closed down. Some of these facilities are located on lands previously owned, occupied or used by Indian tribes. There are culturally significant sites on these lands, but more often than not, the landscape itself may hold deep religious significance to one or more tribes.

For many reasons, protection of these landscapes and tribal interests therein can be a daunting proposition for tribes. One reason is that federal statutory and regulatory regimes discount the religious significance of a landscape. For example, the National Park Service guidance for Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act states: “Historic significance for a religious property cannot be established on the merits of a religious doctrine, but rather, for architectural or artistic values or for important historic or cultural forces that the property represents.”

Stuart Harris of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.   Mike Barns, an Institute Fellow from the University of Auckland and Morris Te Whiti Love, an Institute Director and Director of the Waitangi Tribunal.


Generations in Landscapes: Preparing Our Children to be the Next Caretakers of Traditional Knowledge

Roundtable participants, in their small group sessions, set out what was they considered the highest priority issue under the rubric, "Generations in Landscapes: Preparing Our Children to be the Next Caretakers of Traditional Knowledge." The discussions focused on the challenges Indian tribes and their supporters faced in pursuing the following objectives:

For Indian tribes, the notion that it takes a village to raise a child is just the start of a process to prepare the next generation of caretakers of traditional knowledge. Roundtable participants recognized that it will take much more than just the tribe to do this work. The involvement and resources of tribal organizations, federal agencies, and other institutions will also be required. At the outset, tribes face two problems. First, they will have to convince the varied tribal institutions and publics, inter-tribal organizations; and federal agencies that the teaching and application of traditional knowledge should be pervasive and accordingly, that each institution, organization, and agency bears some responsibility for preparing the next generation of caretakers of traditional knowledge. The second problem is that because the responsibility for teaching and applying traditional knowledge is so diffuse, those responsibilities will not be met without enthusiastic and long-lived stakeholder buy-in, a participatory and comprehensive planning process, and a system to assure some degree of accountability. Some of the means by which knowledge of sacred landscapes can be transmitted to the next generation may be as uncomplicated as using native place names on tribal maps and geographic information systems. However, attaching stories, histories, and other information to these places on maps and geographic information systems may be more complicated and may violate gender-specific, location-specific, and other restrictions on the transfer of such knowledge.

A suggested first step that addresses both problems, at least in part, is for tribes to convene a series of facilitated dialogues with a wide range of stakeholders to:

Involvement of a wide range of tribal and other stakeholders was recognized as a precursor to stakeholder buy-in and although roundtable participants acknowledged that questions as to who should participate and how they should participate are tribal decisions based in part on the state of tribal-state and local government relations, litigation, and other factors, it was suggested that the following stakeholders should be involved.

Cultural Dynamism

These small group discussions examined the many factors that have shaped, or are now shaping, the attitudes and relationships native peoples have toward their sacred landscapes. As was pointed out by workshop participants, cultural landscapes are made up of many elements-landforms, sites, trails, groves, meadows, lakes, and rivers-which have differing significance among and within tribes. These elements also serve many different but interrelated social, economic, religious, and other purposes. As tribes develop strategies to protect their sacred landscapes, the primary problem they face is that the issue has been framed by non-natives in non-native terms. This is manifested by the tendency-indeed some would say the insistence-of the dominant society to treat these different elements of landscape as atomistically isolated and mutually exclusive. Related is the tendency of public lands managers and federal facilities managers to measure the degree of sacredness by ennumerating sites of worship or ceremony.

However, a similar dynamic is displayed by indigenous peoples. Although it is generally agreed that landscape include elements that can be at once sacred and profane and that these elements may be viewed by different tribes in diametrically different ways, tribes are reluctant to acknowledge the multi-faceted nature of these landscapes lest the sacredness with which they view these places be disparaged by Manichean land managers, natural resource developers, and other competing land users. may have dicdevelop paradigm that identifies the sacredness of economic uses. isolated uses of sacred landscapes.

Participants agreed that constructing a sui generis land management paradigm that incorporates both sacred and profane elements of landcape will be a difficult task and one fraught with peril. Even more perilous is the notion of parsing landscapes into level or categories of sacredness notwithstanding the recognition among several roundtable participants that attempts to defend everything results in defending nothing. However, there is a need to bring tribes together to craft a definition of "culturally significant" that is more relevant and more useful to tribes in their efforts to prioritize their efforts to protect their sacred landscapes.

Some participants asked: can landscapes be considered sacred today if those who held those landscapes sacred no longer exist? If the assumption upon which the question is raised is true, then the next question is: can memory or history maintain a landscape's sacredness? Again, if the answer is yes, then the further question is then: who should be taking responsibility for these landscapes? No one was bold enough to proffer answers to these questions

Defining Sacred Landscapes: Overcoming Poverty of English.


•  Can Sacred Landscapes be Created? How?

•  Getting Terminology that is Useful

•  Terms Used For Sacred Sites, Landscapes

•  How do we Restore Memories & Meaning To Stolen Lands?

•  Environmental Cross Cultural Dialogue on Spirituality Identify and Community

•  Landscape/Language etc How Long Does it Take Landscape to Imprint onto Transplanted and Relocate People

•  Landscape and Identity Definitions/Language/etc.

•  How do we Restore Memories and Meaning to Stolen Lands?

•  International Cross Cultural Dialogue on Spirituality Identity and Community**

•  Native American, African, Maori

•  Include Elders

•  Identify Similarities/Differences

•  Drawing Strength From the International Community of Cultures

•  Who Speaks for De-People Sacred Sites

•  How Long Does It Take Landscape To Imprint Onto Transplanted/Relocated People

•  Idea of Developing New Songs – Are Such Efforts Underway? Feasible? Acceptable To Indian Elders & People?

The Conflict of Cultures



Resolution of Multiple Claims to Scared Spaces

•  The Reshuffling of Indigenous Families, Tribes and Territories During the Colonization of North America Has Created A High Likelihood of Multiple Present Day Entities (This Could Be Different Tribes or Different Communities Within A Single Tribe) Claiming Ties To A Single Site or Space.

•  To What Extent Have Multiple Claims Arisen Under, e.g.: NAGPRA, NHPA or AIRFA

•  What Conditions/Processes have Been Most Significant In Resolving Multiple Claims To The Parties' Satisfaction?

•  Transnational Cultural Landscapes

•  Many Ancestral Territories Cross The Current International Borders Between US, Canada & Mexico .

•  US Legislation(e.g.; NAGPRA, NHPA) Can Not Reach The Transnational Parts Of These Landscapes.

•  Are There “Success Stories” of Transboundary Collaboration?

•  What Legal Mechanisms Exist or Should Be Created To Make Transboundary Cooperation Easier?

•  How Can Two Different Cultures In the Same Landscape

•  Is There A Legislative Framework To Do This?

•  Are These Co-management Possibilities

•  Recruiting Non-Native Land Owners Into The Process

•  Dealing with Sites on Private Land

•  How Much Good is State Law (or Local Law)?


I. Science and Technology Research Projects

Project Title: Privacy and Confidentiality Issues Related to Tribal Geographic Information Systems.

Project Abstract: Geographic Information Systems are powerful tools for protecting sacred landscapes. The power of GIS and its utility for indigenous decision-makers lies in the ability of these systems to store and display not only geophysical and biological information, but also historical, cultural, economic, and political information. Moreover, GIS increases the ability of indigenous decision-makers to interpret, analyze and contextualize geospatial imagery. The question for tribal decision-makers, and the object of this proposed research project is: are there legal, management, or technical strategies that can protect the privacy and confidentiality of indigenous peoples' GIS?

Project Title: Transferring Tribal GIS Approaches and Technology to Communities in Africa.

Project Abstract: The power of culturally relevant Geographic Information Systems such as the system demonstrated by the Coeur d'Alene Tribe to assist native leaders in sacred landscape protection and other resource management decisions was recognized by Roundtable participants from Africa. How can tribes and organizations such as the International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management transfer tribal GIS approaches and technology to communities in Africa?

Project Title: Issues in Incorporating Traditional Knowledge in Landscape Protection and Resource Management Regimes.

Project Abstract: Elements of a tribe's traditional knowledge can be incorporated into tribal geographical information systems, school curriculum, and regulatory regimes to make such systems more culturally relevant. However, disclosure of such knowledge can run afoul of gender-specific, location-specific, and similar restrictions on the transfer of such knowledge and otherwise disrupt the teacher-student relationship. This project will identify ethical, social, and cultural problems related to the incorporation of traditional knowledge in such systems and will suggest technical and other means by which such problems can be mitigated.

Project Title: Metrics for Assessing Impacts To Sacred Landscapes.

Project Abstract: Conflicts over development of landscapes considered sacred by Indians are often resolved by balancing what is generally the government's interests against those of the Indian tribe. For tribes, the results have generally been unsastisfactory. This project will examine the degree of specificity in which the tribal interests in sacred landscapes have been described and will suggest other means and measures by which impacts to such interests can be described and assessed. This project will also identify ethical, social, political, and cultural problems related to the development and use of metrics to assess impacts to sacred landscapes and will suggest means by which such problems can be mitigated.

Project Title: Gaining Scientific Respect for Oral Traditions

Project Abstract: NAGPRA and NHPA recognize oral traditions as sources of information but many people don't respect oral tradition. Role of stories, songs, etc. as history, integrated into resource management and related decsion-making, tribal rules of evidence for tribal courts and administrative hearings. nepa and other tribal responses pass through tribal administrative system thus gaining official stamp of approval.

Project Title: Developing Culturally Appropriate Maps.

Project Abstract: Representation of sacred landscapes on maps and geographic information systems has important cultural, political, economic, and other dimensions. This project will identify those dimensions and suggest ways these dimensions can be more accurately portrayed. The tribal institutions, systems, and procedures required for the accurate portrayal of such dimensions, including, for example, tribal geographic names authorities, tribal language commissions to modernize native languages and taxonomies, etc., will be described.

•  Studies through Ethnography

•  Native /Indigenous Place Names Documentation

•  GIS Capabilities Tie In

•  Resolving Differences Between Oral Traditions and Scientific Evidence in Sacred Landscapes Debates*

II. Law and Policy Research Projects



•  Tribes Engage §106 of NHPA through Informal Relationships (Programmatic Relationships)

•  Tribes Proactively Liase With Regional managers of §106 on An Ongoing Basis

•  “ A Designed Route ” Which Provides for Tribes the Greatest Protection Between and Including ARPA and NAGPRA i.e. Interpret, How Best Provide for Tribes

•  How Does A Tribe Navigate Through ARPRA & NAGPRA To Best Protect Their Interests

•  What Are Penalties of Being Involved In Such A System

•  Same as MABS

•  Tribe Training For Government Regulates Agencies on Need to Protect Sacred Areas

•  Acquiring Land, Transfer into trust with Restrictions

•  Conservation Easements Or Other Restrictions for Stewardship Purposes – What Kinds Of Restrictions Would Be Acceptable To Dept Of Justice

•  What Entities Should Have Right to Enforce Restrictions/

•  Would Such Arrangements Facilitate Acquisition of Much Environmental and Culturally Sensitive Land?

•  Confidentiality and Sacred Places

•  Need For Regulations By Secretary of Interior Pursuant To NHPA Section 304, to Establish A Role For Tribes In Decisions On Withholding Information.

•  Need For A Set Of Tools For Tribes To Use To Control The Use of Info.

•  Need to Develop And Enact Amendments To FOIA (Or A Statutory Exemption) For Indian Trust Resource Matters – Should Sacred Places Be Included?

•  Survey of Sites Identified by Tribes as Sacred for Which Protection is was Sought

•  Sites Publicly Identified By Tribes

•  Mechanisms Used To Protect (Past & Present Efforts)

•  What Succeeded (Why)?

•  What Failed (Why)?

•  Evaluation of Effectiveness of S106 for Off-Reservation Sites; re Latest rules (1999)

•  Maintain A Watching Brief On The Effectiveness Of Advocacy role Of The Director Of The Advisory Agency.

•  Monitor Legal Developments.

•  Inventory of NHPA S106 Actions Affecting Tribes

•  Nature & Timing Of Tribal Participation

•  Identification of Other Interested Parties and Their Positions (Supporting or Opposing Tribal position)

•  Outcom


•  How Useful are Non-Profits as Sacred- Lands Custodians

•  What Resources Are Available from Private Foundations (With What Strings)?



•  What are the Religious Under Pinnings of Traditional Management of Landscapes?

•  Self Subscription as a Risk to Cultural Sustainability

•  Cultural Risk to Cultural Sustainability through Post Colonialism Neo-Colonialism (Self Subscription)*

•  Has Co- Management of Sacred Landscapes Worked? Case Studies

•  Preparing Our Children to be the Next Caretakers of Traditional Information****

•  Cultural Risk Assessment of Disruption of Ethno-Habitat of Native Americans

•  Risks In Euro-based Habitats

•  Environmental Pollutants

•  Forced Lifestyles That Increase Cultural Identity

•  Sustainability of Landscape and Life Ethnohabitat/Sacredness/Risk to Culture

•  How are Landscape Values of Native Americans Changing?

•  The Gap Between Indigenous and Western Conceptions of Landscape and Sacredness Has Narrowed In Actuality.

•  Future Generations Will Only Defend The Land To the Extent That They Not Only Understand It Intellectually, But Are Directed With it Spiritually.

•  What Kinds of Activities In Communities (Especially Schools) Have the Greatest Impact On The Actual Beliefs & Motivations & Actions of Youth Towards Ancestral Landscapes.

Project Title: Developing Indicators of People's Connections to their Landscapes.

Project Abstract: Representation of sacred landscapes on maps and geographic information systems has important cultural, political, economic, and other dimensions. This project will identify those dimensions and suggest ways these dimensions can be more accurately portrayed. The tribal institutions, systems, and procedures required for the accurate portrayal of such dimensions, including, for example, tribal geographic names authorities, tribal language commissions to modernize native languages and taxonomies, etc., will be described.


•  Case Study of ___________ a Story of the Successful Incorporation of Cultural Risk Assessment in Federal Facilities Cleanup (To Protect Sacred Landscapes)

•  Identify Players, Process, Timing (Who Initiated What, When).

•  Technologies Considered, Accepted, Rejected and Why.

•  How Concept of Cultural Risk Changed Initial (Federal) Proposal.

•  Assess Applicability to Sacred Landscapes.




•  Health of Cultural People as a Result of a Healthy Spiritual Landscape i.e. Spiritual well Being of Landscapes

•  Where the Symbiosis of People and Landscape Collide To Provide Healthy People and Conversely To Provide Sick People

•  Therapeutic Landscape

•  What Therapeutic Affects Are Manifested By Landscape As A Healing Agent?

•  Are These Reliant Upon Human Beings Being Present?

•  Human Health and the Continued Existence of (Specific) Landscapes

•  Specificity of Landscape

•  Why Are Some Plants From A Particular Place Affective For Healing When The Same Plant From Another Place Does Not Provide The Same Benefit?

•  What Makes up and Surrounds the Gourd in Chemehevi Culture

•  The Cultural Object is Often Symbolic of the Many Endeavors, Ceremonies, Prayers and Meanings Which Are Necessary And Must Be Intact And Healthy In Order For The Object to Exist



What are capacity building requirements?

•  Capacity to Collect and Preserve Oral Histories that Connect People to Place

•  Some Kind of Education In Cultural Resource Legal System So Individuals Know How to Use The Law

•  Capacity to do Collection of Songs i.e. Salt Song Project

•  Schools Working to Include a Body of Indigenous Knowledge Into Curriculum

•  GIS Use to Map Cultural Resources ---Computer Knowledge

•  Some Non-native Participation in Some Parts of the Research Efforts

•  Mainstream Education Systems –Develop Better Appreciation


What is the Dissemination Process?

•  Two Different Tracks - Those Living in the Landscapes and Those Who are Away From Their Homelands

•  Writing Phamplets

•  Producing Videos National and Internationals

•  Classes

•  Children's Books & Videos

•  Books For College Level

•  Going To Sites – Field Activities

•  Journal or Quarterly

•  Internal Process Within Tribe To Decide What Is Internal and What Is Available Outside

•  Learning of Ritual;

•  How to Observe

•  Learning The Processes

•  Obligations To The Landscapes


How Do We Fund This?

•  EPA

•  National Parks Service

•  US Fish & Wildlife

•  Admin. For Native Americans

•  National Endowment of Humanities

•  Tribes – Inkind

•  International Community

•  Foundations:

•  Ford

•  Rockefellow

•  Carnegie

•  Lannan – Proposal Must Come From Tribe

•  Suzuki Foundation “ “

•  Private Local Foundations – i.e.: Chamisa, Santa Fe

•  Various Sources For Individual Scholarships

•  Specific Companies –GIS/Technology

•  Nature Conservancy



















Topic: Songs and Storytelling To Protect Landscapes: Makin' 106 Mo Betta



•  Improve Tribal Consultation In the 106 process

•  Establish Clearing House of Information on Successes and Failures of 106 Actions.

•  Do Analysis of Successes and Failures of 106 Actions.

•  Create an Adaptive Management Mechanism In Order To Deal With Legal Issues

•  Framework For Dealing With These Legal Issues – Tribal Interpretation i.e.: DoD

•  Possible Focus With One Agency


Who should do this?

•  Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers

•  Tribal Individuals Involved In The 106 Process

•  State Historic Preservation Officers

•  National Institute For Historic Preservation & Training

•  National Trust for Historic Preservation

•  Private Attorneys – Tribal Attorneys

•  Federal Training Workgroup

•  Environmental Law Institute

•  Federal Agencies

- Advisory Council on Historic Preservation - BLM

- DoD - DoT - Forest Service


What are capacity building requirements?

•  Educational Programs for Tribal Officials, Staff & Lawyers

•  Criteria For Qualifying For Local Tribe

•  Lawyers Understand The Value of Resource

•  Create A Template of What Each Tribe needs To Internally Document In Order to Be Prepared For Future 106 Actions

•  How To Get 106 Results Without 106 Process

- Educating Tribal Participants More Pro-active

- Educating Local Officials


What is the Dissemination Process?

•  Workshops – Training Sessions On Publishable Materials

•  WEB Sites

•  Using Existing Publications – Cultural Survival Quarterly

•  Cultivating Relationships With Major Media

•  Look at Regular Conferences of Other Organizations:

•  National Historic Trust v American Association of State and Local Historians

•  National Defense ...


How Do We Fund This?

• National Center for Preservation,Technology & Training

• Tribes • DoT DoD---Agency Specific

• ANA • DoI • Parks Service