Respecting Sacred Places

Post date: Apr 9, 2013 3:25:18 PM

During its December 2012 meeting, the ACET Board unanimously endorsed the following statement on Respecting Sacred Places...

Indian Country continues to suffer through the long history of the violation of sacred sites and the desecration of ancestral remains by non-Native agencies, organizations, companies, and individuals. Tribal Nations have struggled to protect their patrimony, heritage sites and the graves of their ancestors. For traditional tribal cultures, the connection to the past is part of our collective identity and future legacy. The mishandling of sacred sites and ancestral remains is an act of violence against the tribal people of today and a crime against future generations.

The disrespect for inherent tribal rights in the handling of tribal antiquities, ancestral graves, patrimony, and sacred sites is not merely an issue that indigenous people have with non-indigenous people; such disregard for the sacred is a growing problem among indigenous people. Some tribal governments, agencies, and companies have begun to adapt foreign ways and values that devalue and disrespect the sacred heritage granted by the Creator. Some of this growing disregard can be attributed to a breakdown in the passing on of traditional ways from one generation to the next. Much of the growing disregard can be attributed to the escalation of greed in which profit and expediency outweighs cultural and spiritual heritage and responsibility.

Tribal governments are challenged to balance honoring and respecting the past with growing and developing for the future. Finding this balance can be difficult. But, the pursuit of this balance is the charge given from past generations. ACET calls on all tribal nations to respect all indigenous sacred sites and ancestral remains. While the primary responsibility falls upon the heirs of any particular site or resting place of ancestors, the charge to honor and defend the collective heritage of the indigenous people of Turtle Island falls to all tribal governments and individual American Indians.

ACET further calls on the federal government, all local and state governments, educational and research agencies to honor the inherent rights of the historic tribal heirs of any patrimony, sacred site, or ancestral remains, based upon continuous tribal community connection, as a matter of justice and in compliance with the spirit of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.