Nan Madol – Sacred City of Micronesia

Nan Madol

The Site:

Nan Madol, The Federated States of Micronesia.

The Location:

Offshore along the eastern coast of Pohnpei Island.

Description:

Nan Madol is a series of more than 100 human constructed islets made of artificual basalt and coral boulders. The islets are home to the megalithic ruins of temples, tombs, palaces and residences built between 1200 and 1600 CE. It was the sacred ceremonial center of the Saudeleur dynasty. It represents a dynamic manifestation of the chiefly structure of this Pacific Island culture that continues today under the control of the traditional management of the Nahnmwarki.

The Threat:

Siltation of the seawater is causing overgrowth of mangroves, which are engulfing the structures and some are threatening the integrity of the monuments.

Why is it Sacred?

The very fact that this complex of temple structures and their sheer number exist is a testament to the elaborate religious practices that have been and continue to be practiced at these sites.

What is its Status?

The site is listed, according to the Kaselehile Press in July of 2016, on the U.S. Registry of Historical Sites. The Federated States of Micronesia legally protected the site, as did the Pohnpei Historic Preservation Office. The site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016 and places on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

Editor’s Note: Sacred Sites International first learned of this site in 1992 and covered it in our newsletter, Site Saver, because it was endangered. 

Bears Ears National Monument, Utah

Bears Ears National Monument

The Site:

Bears Ears National Monument

Map of Bears Ears location in Utah

The Location:

Utah, U.S.A., in San Juan Country in Southeastern Utah on public land. The Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, oversees the sites.

 The Threat:

President Donald Trump approved the U.S. Secretary of the Interior recommendation for a significant downsizing of the land included in this National Monument in October of 2017. As reported in the Washington Post, Trump plans to reduce the monument to two or three small places. Such a reduction of the monument’s land leaves vast areas open to oil and mineral drilling and cattle grazing. This has the potential of destroying the sacred qualities of the place along with sacred sites and artifacts.

Who Considers It Sacred?

The major American Indian groups in Utah: Diné Nation (Navajo), Hopi Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Unitah & Ouray Ute Tribe and the Pueblo of Zuni.

In addition there are numerous tribes and pueblos who have cultureal ties to the land in and around Bears Ears: the White Mountain Tribe, the San Juan Kaibab & Utah Paiute Tribes, Hualapai Tribe, and the Pueblos of Acoma, Cochiti, Isletta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambé, Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris Pojoaque, Sandia, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Ysleta Del Sur and Zia.

Why is it Sacred?

The Indian tribes who regard Bears Ears as sacred have oral histories about the ears of a bear, manifest as two prominent towering forms looming above the mesa.

It is estimated that there are over 100,000 significant cultural and sacred sites which can be found throughout the extensive monument. These include ancestral cliff structures, ancient surface structures built from rock and ancient Diné Hogans. There are also hunting and gathering territories used to gather sacred plants for ceremonies, and incised rock sites that tell the history of the Native Peoples who have inhabited the lands included in the Bears Ears National Monument.

The Inter-Tribal Coalition website has information about the various regions of Bears Ears and photo slideshows.

What is its Status?

In mid-September 2017, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, delivered his “Final Report Summarizing Findings of the Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act.”

Zinke’s report states, “It appears that certain monuments were designated to prevent economic activity such as grazing, mining and timber production, rather than to protect specific objects.”

 

West Berkeley Shellmound, Village & Burial Site

Picture of West Berkeley Shellmound

The Site:

West Berkeley Shellmound & Ceremonial & Burial site, CA-ALA-307, USA.

Contact:

Corrina Gould, Sogorea Té Land Trust

The Location:

1990 Fourth Street, Alameda County, Berkeley, CA, opposite Spenger’s Fish Grotto. It is located on private land.

The Threat:

A mixed-use development of shops, apartments and an underground parking garage that would destroy what remains of the West Berkeley Shellmound and its associated burials.

Who Considers the Site Sacred?

Descendants of the Chochenyo Ohlone people.

Why is it Sacred?

The Chochenyo Ohlone people lived here from 3700 B.F.C to 800 C.E. Where people lived, they buried their dead and conducted ceremonies. It is considered to be the oldest of more than 425 shellmounds that once ringed the shore of the San Francisco Bay.

It evolved over centuries of use, spanning hundreds of generations, around the mouth of Strawberry Creek where it flowed to the Bay. The Ohlone, principally ate shellfish and they discarded the shells and added soil until the site become a mound. The mound or midden eventually grew to approximately 20 feet in height and several football fields long.

What is its Status?

It was chosen to be a Berkeley City Landmark in 2002. In 2003, it was found to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The following year, it was deemed eligible for the California State Register of Historic Places.

 

Pahne Maritime Village, California

picture of a body of water in a marsh

Part of the Pahne Village Complex, a Traditional Cultural Property and Sacred Site, is known by its designation as CA-SDI-13325. It is currently endangered by US Marine Corps military operations that are degrading the site.


Who Considers the Site Sacred?

Descendants of Pechanga and Juaneño Acjachemen tribes. Pachanga and Juaneño Acjachemen tribal representatives made an inspection of the site in May of 2017. Even though the Sierra Training Program had not begun, heavy track vehicles had made deep ruts throughout the site, displacing the decomposed granite and the underlying geocloth and exposing the cultural midden.

The mitigation is not sufficient to protect the site from vehicles weighing in excess of 30,000 lbs. The Marines have promised to put more decomposed granite on the site after each use. However, each time they use the site, they will have  grade and compact it.

This will eventually cause impacting erosion on the site and the destruction of the intact cultural deposits, including possible human remains.

“Military training operations by the U.S. Marine Corps

degrade parts of the Pahne Village Site – a significant

ceremonial and burial site.”

picture of a part of the Pahne Village Site which has been damaged by U.S. Marine Corps' machinery

Damage to part of Pahne Village Site by U.S. Marine Corps

Why is it Sacred?

 It is considered to be culturally significant and a sacred site. As such, it has ceremonial significance and as a village site it may contain burials.

What is its Status?

 It was listed as eligible on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. It is    also listed on the California Native American Heritage Commission’s Sacred Lands Inventory.

The Location

Located in San Mateo Valley, this U.S. Marine Corps Installations West Marine Corps Base is known as Camp Pendelton, CA. It is on Federal land owned by the Marines.

 

The Threat

Part of the Pahne Village Complex is used for heavy track vehicles by the U.S. Marine Corps in a program known as the Sierra Training Program. The top 50 cm has been disturbed by heavy track vehicles and sites plowed in this manner contain significant cultural materials. The Marine Corps mitigation of decomposed granite is not sufficient protection.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

Uluru's Iconic Red Rock - Copyright - Yifei Wu

Uluru’s Iconic Red Rock – Copyright,  Yifei Wu

 

Uluru is one of the world’s most iconic natural sacred sites. It has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of Sites. The site is sacred to the Anangu people of Australia who also co-manage the site and give guided tours of areas accessible to visitors. Uluru is central to the Anangu’s Creation Time or Tjukurpa. It is a place that embodies core values of their culture and is associated with numerous totemic ancestors.

Uluru Pictographs -- Copyright Yifei Wu

Uluru Pictographs — Copyright, Yifei Wu

 

These pictographs are used to teach values and history to children by women. The concentric circles refer to places and the “C” shaped pictograph – on the right site of the panel – refers to a person. The hand-prints were made by ancestors.

The pictographs used to be in better condition, but, early visitors to the site would splash water on them in order to see them more clearly and this has eroded the images.

Anangu believe all of Uluru’s natural features were made by their ancestors.

Uluru Cave -- Copyright -- Yifei Wu

Uluru Cave — Copyright, Yifei Wu

 

Uluru at Sunrise -- Copyright -- Yifei Wu

Uluru At Sunrise– Copyright, Yifei Wu