Commentary & Essays

Formal Response from Indigenous Peoples to USDA Sacred Sites Report



“The Creator gave the Aboriginal Indigenous Nations of the People Laws to follow and
responsibilities to care for all Creation. These instructions have been passed down
from generation to generation from the beginning of Creation. It is the Law that no one
can overpower the Creator’s Law, you are a part of Creation, thus if you break the
Law, you are destroying yourself.
We speak on behalf of all Creation: the four legged/those that swim/those that
crawl/those that fly/those that burrow in the Earth/the plant and tree Nations. This one
life system includes the elements of fire, water, earth and air, the living environment of
“Mother Earth”.
The Sanctity of the Creator’s Law has been broken. The balance of life has been
disrupted. You come into life as a sacred being. If you abuse the sacredness of your
life then you affect all Creation. The future of all life is now in jeopardy.
We have now reached the crossroads. As Aboriginal Indigenous People we ask you to
work with us to save the future of all Creation.”

Aboriginal Indigenous Nations of the People’s Message 3.11.2011

The message above was brought forth, by Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples, at
the threatened sacred mountain of the ancestors of the Huhugam. This message
presented an opportunity to the United States of America for direct face-to-face
dialogue with Indigenous Elders and Medicine People, which is necessary to assist and
educate the Forest Service on how to conduct their activities to prevent damage,
destruction and desecration to places held sacred by Indigenous Peoples.

As the Original Stewards of this Land, we are offended by the lack of sensitivity being
shown to our position and we are discriminated against by having to respond in black
and white with a foreign language that is not ours and does not convey the full depth of
our concerns. We maintain the inherent responsibility that was given to us by the
Creator to care for all Creation and to speak for our relatives that cannot be easily
understood by the newcomers. We are united under the Creator’s Law to protect and
extend Life for our future generations. Today, your understanding of a sacred site does
not reflect what Indigenous Peoples know to be true about the places that we hold
Sacred and Holy.

The “Report to the Secretary – USDA and Forest Service Policy and Procedures
Review: Indian Sacred Sites” is without spirit and fails to provide meaningful and
effective direction for the development of policies for the protection of Indigenous
sacred places. There is nothing in the report that offers any new or real mechanisms to
protect sacred places that create the foundations of our Way of Life as Indigenous
Peoples. The activities of federal agencies continue to damage, destroy, and desecrate
these sacred places. For instance, there is no mention in the report of how the Agency
is going to protect sacred places from special use permits, third party contractors or
resource extraction. And, there is no recognition of the fact that the United States has
treaty, agreements and statutory obligations to Indigenous Peoples; these obligations
surpass the Agency’s mission to provide multi-use activities. Recreational activities on
our sacred lands do not reach the same threshold and should not be weighed equally
with our Way of Life as Indigenous Peoples particularly when actions may result in
negative consequences to the natural system of life.

Protection of what we hold Sacred as Indigenous Peoples surpasses domestic and
international laws; it also requires adherence to the Creator’s Law, a Law that is
indivisible and creates the spiritual foundations for Indigenous Nations and our Way of
Life. For this reason, we specifically asked that the United Nations Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples be included in the document and noted as “a minimum
standard”. This specific request was not included in the report. And, there is no
mention of the Creator’s Law in the report. As Indigenous Peoples we do not separate
ourselves from the Creator’s Law. The Creator’s Law is that All Life is Sacred, All
Creation is Sacred. That is the Natural Law we cannot change or challenge.

The Forest Service states it cannot delegate decision-making authority for actions on
National Forest System land to entities outside the federal government. However, the
Creator never delegated the right of Creation and Destruction to the Forest Service.
Yet, the Forest Service continues to destroy and desecrate the natural function of these
lands, while trying to create new uses for these lands that have held their sacred
purpose since the beginning of Creation. We, the Indigenous Peoples, have obligations
and responsibilities that go beyond man-made domestic and international laws. We
must adhere to the Creator’s Law and protect and maintain these sacred places and
honor their sacred purposes. The Creator’s Law does not change so our obligations and
responsibilities have not and will not change.

The report speaks of keeping sacred sites confidential for their protection, yet the Forest
Service continues to move forward with its plans to damage, destroy, pollute and
desecrate known and identified Holy places with telescopes, treated sewage effluent,
resource extraction, further development, recreation and other damaging activities. As
a result it is not prudent for Indigenous Peoples to provide federal agencies with
information on sacred places and knowledge until a mutually acceptable and fully
responsible system has been established for protecting the sacred places that have
already been identified. Our knowledge is for us to protect and not for federal agencies
to abuse. Only when a sacred area is threatened or revealed will it be interpreted by the
Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples. Direction will then be given to the Forest
Service on how to conduct their activities to prevent damage, destruction and
desecration. Those born into this way of life understand that it is our responsibility not
to give away the inherited rights of our future generations to those who do not value
and understand our Way of Life. The only way to legitimately include authentic
indigenous knowledge is to include the Indigenous Peoples, who are the true keepers of
that spiritual knowledge throughout the entire process especially when decisions are
being made. So you must come to the Indigenous Peoples, face-to-face, in order to get
our free, prior and informed consent before plans are initiated that may affect
Indigenous Peoples and the Creator’s Creation.

When you decide to move forward in a correct manner (that is with respect and dignity
as human beings), then you will come to the Indigenous Peoples to consult face-to-face
with an understanding that we need consensus before proceeding. Anything less falls
short of developing a working relationship that is necessary with Indigenous Peoples to
address critical issues and to benefit all Creation. The Forest Service has indicated that
it wishes to engage in co-management of these lands with the Indigenous Peoples.
However, the Forest Service has failed to recognize that our obligations and
responsibilities go beyond the limitations of man-made laws. Our responsibilities
include an obligation to speak on behalf of all Creation, to protect that sacredness that
has been given to us by the Creator. The word “co-management” itself is inappropriate,
because we don’t view our role as managers, but rather to protect and to live in
harmony with all Creation. Once these foundational principles are understood and
respected, we can begin discussions on how this balance can be achieved.
The Forest Service needs to understand that it is fully responsible and liable for the
activities and actions that it allows and undertakes on our sacred lands and which
negatively impact Indigenous Peoples and our Way of Life. The report singles out
Forest Supervisors as having final authority for these decisions, but we remind you that
all administrators and staff within any given line of authority will be held responsible
for fulfilling obligations to all domestic laws, international laws and the Creator’s Law,
which protect the Creator’s Creation and our Indigenous Way of Life. Line officers are
not the only staff that require performance measures for this to work; these measures
must be required of all public servants from the President, Members of Congress,
Supreme Court Justices, USDA Secretary and all Forest Service line officers, especially
since there is such a strong record for violation of and past inconsistent implementation
of policies listed in the report. There is a need to immediately enforce and synthesize
all current laws, policies and procedures and to create legitimate consequences for those
who fail to follow these protocols.

We all need a healing. The report does not address how your Agency is going to right
past wrongs and restore past damages that your Agency has caused. As Indigenous
Peoples we strive to maintain balance and harmony with all Creation. Many years ago
we received the message that this harmonious balance had been disrupted. We have
sent messages of all types to every governmental body around the World including your
Agency that we must begin to heal activities of the past that have led to damage,
destruction, and desecration. To begin this healing process we must first stop these
damaging activities to allow the natural healing process of Mother Earth to begin. The
healing cannot begin until your Agency formally confronts the legacies of injustice to
the water, air, land, plants, animals, trees, and all of the Creator’s Creation that you
have damaged, destroyed and desecrated, including the Indigenous Peoples.

A healthy relationship between our Nations needs to be created. We noted your nondiscriminatory
statement but also noted the omission of our spiritual way of life and
sacred holdings in that statement. The United States of America has not honored its
agreements to the original inhabitants of this land since the beginning of our
relationship. This same lack of commitment to the agreements being made with the
Indigenous Peoples continues to this day. For that reason we as Indigenous Peoples
recommend that the Secretary as a first step towards reconciliation conduct an
independent investigation into past and current human rights and environmental
violations, including discriminatory practices, under both domestic and international
law. The findings from this independent investigation should be made public and
should include recommendations and plans to restore past damage and to prevent future
harms to the Creator’s Creation and our Way of Life. Your laws get outdated and do
not respond effectively to emerging threats such as treated sewage effluent, invasive
species, antibiotic resistant genes and all other types of emerging and existing threats to
the natural system of life. The United States’ 1872 mining law, for example, does not
adhere to your best available science and does not adhere to the Creator’s Law. It must
be changed if your laws as a Nation are to be taken seriously. Your science is flawed as
it cannot predict with absolute certainty how Mother Earth will respond to your
activities. Because you are blinded by laws and science that are economically driven,
Indigenous Peoples, as the Original Stewards of this Land, must be involved in every
aspect of your actions – planning, development and implementation– to ensure the
protection of our Way of Life and to fulfill our obligations to the Creator and all Life.
Another concern stated in the report is that the Agency lacks personnel, knowledge and
funding. This means you lack the resources to fulfill your obligations to your laws,
international laws and the Creator’s Law and should not be allowed to proceed with any
plans until you are ready and able to be responsible for your actions and to fulfill all of
your obligations.

We, as Indigenous Peoples, have a great responsibility to our children and all Life that
must be honored and upheld. The covenant we have with the Creator requires us to
consider the impacts of our decisions on the Creator’s Creation and the impact these
decisions will have on the future of life. The Indigenous Elders, Medicine Peoples,
Spiritual Leaders, Wisdom Keepers, Spiritual People and Those Who Carry Great
Responsibilities for Their People will continue to fulfill their responsibilities to provide
a future for the coming generations of Life and must be included in all planning and
decisions affecting the natural system of life.
In order for us to move forward meaningfully we must first create a base understanding
between us, to ensure that we are agreeing to speak about sacredness in a manner that is
appropriate, respectful and with the dignity it requires. Otherwise, these discussions
will fail to address the concerns of the Indigenous Peoples and to honor the Secretary’s
request to create more effective policies for the protection of Indigenous sacred places.
We have much more to share with you outside of this very limiting and discriminatory
process, a process that does not reflect who we are as Indigenous Elders and Medicine
Peoples. We want to be very clear that this is not consultation. True consultation
requires those with decision-making authority to be willing to come to us formally, and
sit with us face-to-face. Then we can initiate a true dialogue on how to proceed
honorably to provide a future for All Life.

We are united under the Creator’s Law. We are from various Indigenous Nations and
are spiritually related. We have been placed on our lands as Aboriginal Indigenous
Nations of the People with sacred instructions and responsibilities placed within us by
the Creator to follow the Laws of the Creator. Your Agency uses terms like federally
recognized and federally unrecognized. We see this as your way of dividing the
Indigenous Peoples. We are united under the Creator’s Law, as United Indigenous
Nations, to protect and extend Life for all future generations.

We have worked through the Senior Advisor to Secretary Tom Vilsack to set up a two
and a half hour meeting on October 12, 2011. The Indigenous Elders and Medicine
Peoples intend to begin dialogue with Secretary Vilsack during this phone conference,
rather than continuing to have these discussions filtered through his representatives. The
Secretary is the representative for the United States regarding their position on the
protection of our Indigenous Sacred Lands. The Secretary’s participation or lack of
participation on this phone conference will reflect the United States commitment to
creating a working relationship with the Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples to
realign their way of life with the Creator’s natural system of life.

Chief, Arvol Looking Horse
19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe
Spiritual Leader
Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Nations
Bobby C. Billie
Clan Leader and Spiritual Leader
Council of the Original Miccosukee
Simanolee Nation Aboriginal People


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