June 21st, The 2006 National Prayer Day For Sacred Places
by: Staff Reports / Indian Country Today
WASHINGTON - Observances and ceremonies were held across the country on June 21 to mark the 2006 National Day of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places.
''Native and non-Native people nationwide gathered to honor sacred places, with a special emphasis on those that are endangered by actions that can be avoided,'' said Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee. Harjo is the president of The Morning Star Institute, which organizes the national prayer days and is a columnist for Indian Country Today.
Some of the gatherings were educational forums, not religious ceremonies, and were open to the general public. Others were ceremonial and may have been conducted in private.
This was the fourth National Day of Prayer for Sacred Places. The observance in Washington, D.C., was held at the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall.
The first National Prayer Day was conducted on June 20, 2003, on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and nationwide to emphasize the need for Congress to enact a cause of action to protect Native sacred places. That need still exists.
''Many Native American sacred places are being damaged because Native nations do not have equal access under the First Amendment to defend them,'' Harjo said. ''All other people in the United States have the First Amendment to protect their churches. Only traditional Native Americans cannot get into the courthouse through the Freedom of Religion Clauses. That simply must change as a matter of fairness and equity.''
In 1988, the Supreme Court told Congress it had to enact a statutory right of action, if it wanted to protect Native sacred places. ''Eighteen years have passed without Congress creating that door to the courthouse for Native Americans,'' Harjo said. ''And some of these places cannot withstand many more years of legal and physical onslaughts.
''Native and non-Native people are gathering, again, to call on anyone who will listen to help protect these national treasures and to do something about this national disgrace that threatens them.''
There were many events happening across the country, here are a few:
California: Pit River Territory -Pit River, Wintu, Shasta, Modoc and other Native peoples gathered on traditional Pit River Territory to pray for the protection of the sacred and natural Medicine Lake Highlands in northeastern California.
Following the ceremonies, there was a gathering to plan nonviolent resistance to Calpine Energy's destructive project for the Medicine Lake Highlands. This action will build on the protest that took place at the Calpine headquarters in San Jose in January 2006.
Colorado: Native American Rights Fund, Boulder -
The Native American Rights Fund held a sunrise ceremony, which was open to the public on NARF's front lawn at 6 a.m. The program lasted for about an hour with a prayer ceremony, speakers and a moment of silence to show concern for the sacred places that are being damaged and destroyed today.
Kansas: Wakarusa Wetlands -
Save the Wakarusa Wetlands Inc. - an association of Lawrence-based Haskell Indian Nations University alumni, students and community supporters - observed National Prayer Day at sunrise in the wetlands south of Lawrence. Participants and asked for the protection of the Wakarusa Wetlands, which is threatened by highway project.
Missouri: Missouri River -
The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe held its Annual Prayer Breakfast and Summer Solstice Acknowledgement to honor The Prayer Day for Sacred Places and The International Peace and Prayer Day, both of which were observed on the summer solstice.
New Mexico: Morning Star House, Albuquerque -
An observance for the protection of all sacred places and sacred beings took place at sunrise at the Morning Star House, 6001 Marble Ave. N.E., Albuquerque.
North Dakota: Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, New Town -
A sunrise prayer ceremony took place at the Fort Berthold Reservation, home of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in North Dakota. Details regarding the events of the day are available through the tribal office.
Washington, D.C.: The Morning Star Institute at the National Museum of the American Indian -The observance took place at the National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall, in the circle between the east entrance and the Wetlands Pond, at 7:30 a.m.
Washington: Snoqualmie Falls -
National Day of Prayer for the Protection of Sacred Places was observed by the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe at Snoqualmie Falls at noon. Attendees were asked to bring a dish to pass for a potluck lunch that was shared after the ceremony.
Washington: Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and Lummi Nation -
The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe conducted a Prayer Ceremony in Honor of the Ancestors at Tse Whit Zen Village near Port Angeles. The Lummi Indian Nation commemorated a totem to the memory of veterans.
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