Standing Rock Sioux Indian Burial Grounds, Stone Prayer Rings and Ancient Cairns
North Dakota, U.S.A.
The 1,200 mile long Dakota Access Oil Pipeline traverses part of Standing Rock Sioux tribal lands located in North Dakota. Lawyers for the Standing Rock Sioux filed a request to stop the project, when it became apparent that the pipeline would destroy a recently identified burial ground, along with stone prayer rings and ancient rock cairns. In addition, the pipeline travels beneath the Missouri River, a primary source of drinking water for the tribe and other people downstream. Any leak in the pipeline would contaminate the drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux.
See the Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Story: Did the Dakota Access Pipeline Company Deliberately Destroy Sacred Sioux Burial Sites?
A large camp was established on the pipeline site, the Oceti Sakowin Camp. It was a historic gathering of tribes and allies who were expressing solidarity in stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline, Calling themselves, The Water Protectors’. The Oceti Sakowin Camp will be a place for future indigenous meetings.
To learn how the encampment began, read the New York Times Magazine article about the young people who first camped out at the site: “The Youth Group that Launched a Movement at Standing Rock.”
Also, read this article from the New Yorker, “Holy Rage: Lessons from Standing Rock,” by the American novelist, Louise Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountin Band of Chippewa Indians. Ms. Erdrich was born in Little Falls, Minnesota.
Who Considers the Site Sacred?
Standing Rock Sioux and other Sioux Tribes including other Indians throughout the U.S.
The Site’s Status:
The Standing Rock Sioux have sued the Army Corps of Engineers saying they violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA). NHPA requires the agency to consider the cultural significance of federally permitted sites and NEPA to consider the possible consequences associated with waterways – putting a pipeline under the Missouri River. The litigation is ongoing and a court has rejected arguments that the construction be halted while the case is in litigation.
Oil started flowing through the pipeline in the spring of 2017.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, San Jose, California, U.S.A.
The Site’s Status:
National Historic Landmark, 2017
Who considers it sacred?
The Mexican American Community, the United Farm Workers Union and civil rights communities, and Catholic Diocese of San Jose.
Why is it sacred?
McDonnell Hall is where Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers Union and civil rights pioneer, began his lifelong efforts in community organization.
The modest one-story, stucco clad building, was moved to the outskirts of San Jose in 1953, and first served as a parish church for the growing Spanish-speaking Catholic community in the area. It was a place of worship as well as a social hall used by the community for meetings, celebrations, and education classes.
It was in this capacity that a young Cesar Chavez met Father Donald McDonnell and community organizer, Fred Ross. McDonnell befriended Chavez, bringing to him exposure to the teachings of Ghandi, the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the growing awareness of non-violent protest to bring out social change. Ross mentored Chavez and he began to apply these strategies to improve the plight of his friends, family, and neighbors.
It was in McDonnell Hall that Chavez began to involve himself more fully in the organization of the primarily poor and migrant community around him toward improving their treatment and status. This is where his rallying cry, ¡Si, Se Puede! (Yes! We Can!) was developed. Throughout his career, he returned to this building, to his original community, to find strength and solace.
As the parish and the population of the community expanded, the building was moved to another portion of the original site in the 1970s, when it became a parish hall to support the activities and efforts of the newly constructed Lady of Guadalupe Parish Church. The original building was re-stuccoes and modified at that time to better serve its new purpose. Plans are currently underway to restore the building to its appearance in 1953, when Chavez first began his connections to structure.
The recognition of this simple, imperfect building with the Unites States Secretary of the Interior’s highest honor emphasizes the growing the growing awareness of the National Park Service of minority and marginalized community contributions to the cultural significance of the country. The McDonnell Hall National Historic Landmark joins the Cesar Chavez National Monument in Keene, California and the Forty Acres National Historic Landmark Site in Delano, California in celebrating and continuing the work that Cesar Chavez started in 1953 in this humble former-church building in San Jose.
Nan Madol rises dramatically and unexpectedly out of the Pacific Ocean. This majestic ancient city filled with sacred centers is located off the island of Pohnpei in the U.S. Micronesia. It is the largest archaeological site in the Pacific region. Nan Madol is comprised of an intricate system of waterways that crisscross 92 human constructed islets and structures. The black stone buildings are completely unique in their construction. There is no other architecture of this kind known in the world. The building of Nan Madol was an impressive engineering feat that withstood strong waves and ocean currents. The city’s construction also required divine assistance and spiritual intent when heavy megalithic stones were moved into place. Now, after standing for over 1500 years, the survival of this sacred city is threatened by deterioration.
The site was constructed on an area called, “The Reef of Heaven.” The building took place over a period of one thousand years, between 500 and 1500 A.D. Many of the islets are dominated by megalithic structures comprised of long, naturally prismatic, log-like basalt stones. Some of these rocks weigh 50 to 60 tons. Evidence suggests that some of the islets played an important roles in the religion of a thriving Pacific Ocean culture. Upper Madol, “Madol Powe,” was the priests’ town and Lower Madol, “Madol Pah,” was occupied by high-ranking rulers. Both sections included important sacred sites.
According to Pohnpeian oral history, initial construction of Nan Madol was begun by two brothers, Ohlosohpa and Olosihpa.
These holy men sailed from a land in the west searching for a place to build a sacred center where they could worship a presence called the “honored spirit of the land.” After several attempts they found a suitable location. With the assistance of gods and their companions, they first erected a rock on the reef to serve as a transit for laying the islets’ foundations. Strong waves made building nearly impossible. Finally an important man arrived on a magical rock to assist with the project. He cast a spell and the rock turned into an outer foundation wall that protected the islet structures from ocean forces. This wall has the only gate providing entrance to Nan Madol from the ocean. It is believed that this gate leads to an honored underground city, Kahnimweiso.
Just beyond the entry gate stands the most impressive of the site’s structures. The islet is called Nan Douwas, which means “in the mouth of the high chief.” It was a place to pray to “the honored spirit of the land,” as well as a refuge and meeting place for tribal chiefs. This islet consists of an immense double-walled stone burial vault that housed the remains of ancient rulers. Its impressive construction contains 13,500 cubic meters of coral fill, 4,500 cubic meters of basalt and has twenty-five-foot high walls. Because of its spectacular appearance, Nan Douwas is the most frequently visited islet.
The main religious center of Nan Madol was the islet of Idehd. Every year, at a time determined by divination and change in the agricultural seasons, the high priests performed extended rituals of homage, supplication and atonement. The rituals ended with the offering of a turtle to the great saltwater eel that acted as a medium between the people and the ruler’s god. The eel’s acceptance of the turtle indicated that, “the honored spirit of the land,” was pleased with human conduct on Pohnpei.
Other islets had important sacred ceremonial sites. Darong was symmetrically constructed around a natural reef pool. Eleven tunnel-like channels ran through the coral fill. These were constructed with carefully cut coral bricks set between rows of basalt columns. It is believe that these channels were used to keep sacred eels, Legends indicate that the pool was also used for seasonal ritualistic clam fishing. A remarkable two-ton pounding stone found on this islet suggests a ceremonial structure of priest’s house.
The islet of Peikapw had two sacred pools. One probably held the turtles used on Idehd. The other was a magical pool where rulers could see all events taking place on neigh boring islands. IN addition, there are two sacred trees and stones said to have once been women who neglected a famous giant god.
Kohnderek was the most important islet for burial rituals. When a person dies their body was perfumed with coconut oil and wrapped in a mat along with flowers, fish bones, and some of their belongings. They were taken to visit all the islets, finally stopping at Kohnderek. The most important funeral dancing and drinking occurred on this islet before the burial on one of the other islets.
As the end of the 20th century grows closer, Nan Madol is in danger of destruction from the ravaged of tie and from increased tourism. Immediate preservation needs are the stabilization of the islets’ retaining walls and the walls of the structures, vegetation removal and maintenance and proper management of eco-tourism.
The protection and preservation of Nan Madol was provided for in 2986 in its proclamation as a U.S. National Historic Landmark. The site is being nominated to the World Heritage List of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO because of its “outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic and anthropological points of view.” (See Site Saver, Vol. II, No. 3 on UNESCO World Heritage Sites.)
The state of Pohnpei is passing its own preservation legislation, which will further protect the site’s integrity and aesthetic qualities.
The importance of the site has also attracted a group of private individuals who have formed the Nan Madol Foundation. This non-profit group is dedicated to researching, preserving, and protecting the area. They are developing a master plan for education and economic development.
Tourists are increasing at this unique site. Their numbers are expected to increase exponentially when the National Geographic Society releases its new book Mysteries of Mankind later this year. Approximately 600,000 copies will be produced, featuring such sacred sites as the Pyramids, Stonehenge, Easter Island, and Nan Madol.
In anticipation of more visitors, the Nan Madol Foundation is working to preserve the site and its culture by building small family-owned traditional-style hotels. They envision a strong educational component for visitors, which will emphasize traditional island arts, crafts, dances, and story telling. By such forward thinking it is hoped that this site can be preserved for future generations before overdevelopment and overuse destroy its integrity.
Carol Nervig is a former Peace Corps volunteer who served on the island of Pohnpei. Sacred Sites International first published this story in 1992. It took over 25 years for Nan Madol to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Nan Madol, The Federated States of Micronesia.
Offshore along the eastern coast of Pohnpei Island.
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.
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, 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.
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 & Ceremonial & Burial site, CA-ALA-307, USA.
Corrina Gould, Sogorea Té Land Trust
1990 Fourth Street, Alameda County, Berkeley, CA, opposite Spenger’s Fish Grotto. It is located on private land.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
A Sacred Site, called Kurlpurlunu, seemed lost for over 70 years, as elders had unsuccessfully searched the Tanami Desert. They were recently flown over the land and an elderly pair recognized the site, which had a distinctive rock and tree.
82-year-old Jerry Jangala said it was the rock he used to visit when little. He recognized two prominent sand mounds and a waterhole. He began singing the song of the place and then cried, proclaiming that this was a place for making rain called Kurlpurlunu.
News Source: abc australian news
Neolithic barrow or tumulus sites are being lost at an alarming rate in the Netherlands. Development projects for housing and industrial use employ archaeologists who excavate these ancient sites, often leveling them in the process before they are paved over to accommodate the development.
Such is the case in Dalfsen, located in the province Overijssel, where during the process of building a housing project, 120 graves were discovered from the Funnelbeaker culture. The acidic soil had long ago eaten away at the skeletal remains leaving only shadowy, ghostlike images. The people buried here lived between 3400 to 2700 BC and they were the makers of hunebeds, or dolmens. Beside the burials were grave goods including the elaborately decorated pottery for which the culture was known.
According to ADC Archeo Projecten (ADC), the archaeological firm chosen for the dig, the burial site measured approximately 120 X 20 meters wide and and included remains of an earthen monument, which was marked by an oval ditch measuring around 30 X 4 meters wide or approximately 98 X 13 ft. The earthen mound was located in the center of the burial ground. The monument would have looked like a dolmen or hunebed, but not made of stone. A remarkable and very rare, ritual platform was on top of the central mound and was likely used for staging rites connected with the burials. All finds were south of a 5000-year-old sand road, the so-called Middenweg, which disappeared during the 1960’s due to land consolidation. Along this road the dead were transferred for burial. Postholes indicate a Stone Age farmhouse, measuring approximately 12 meters long, with a burial found near the mound. The oldest finds at Dalfsen are Mesolithic flints dating from between 8800- 4900 BC.
Daan Raemaekers, of the University of Groningen, commented on the importance of the discoveries at Dalfsen. His colleague, Henk van der Velde, manager of ADC Archeo Projecten, a firm that conducts about 500 excavations a year, stated on Dalfsen.net, “The discovery of this graveyard is not only important for Dalfsen and Overijssel, but it even transcends the national interest.” Although this was presented as the largest grave field of the Funnelbeaker culture in North-West Europe, the site was not be saved. Neither Raemaekers, nor ADC Archeo Projecten, with Niels Bouma as Project Director, recognizes the earthen monument as sacred, despite the fact that it was a burial site. The cost to excavate and level the sacred mound was estimated at US $720,870, the amount paid to ADC Archeo Projecten.
Municipal authorities and Dutch archaeologists usually do not inform the wider public until after an excavation is finished, so there is no process for voicing opposition to the development project. The discovery of such a large Funnelbeakers burial ground in Dalfsen changed all that, and the news was reported on television while the dig was ongoing. The finds at Dalfsen were presented as new discoveries, however, the excavation appears to have been started earlier in the Spring of 2015, the first Funnelbeakers having already been dug up during February. If the public had known about this important site in February, then perhaps it could have been stopped and the site preserved. The lead archaeologist from ADC, Henk van de Velt, reported that they kept the excavation secret because of the fear of looting.
Once the news broke on Dutch television there was such a large interest by the public, that authorities felt compelled to open the site for a one-time only public viewing.
A Sacred Sites member journeyed to the Funnelbeaker site, and on the way visited the forest of Veluwe, (province Gelderland) where there are two preserved barrows that are part of an approximately, 6-km-long alignment, that is probably lunar oriented. This visit was designed to view barrows that were naturally and respectfully preserved in contrast to what had been done at the newly excavated Funnelbeaker site in Dalfsen.
There were thousands of people who flocked to the site on visiting day, which was advertised thusly, “Ontdek het grootste grafveld van de hunebed bouwer”s (Discover the largest gravefield of the hunebed builders). What did the visitors see at the dig? Well, nothing, for the archaeologists had destroyed all visible traces of the ancient monument.
ADC Archeo Projecten, despite being a professional archaeological firm, had contracted with students to do the physical labor involved in the archaeological excavation. There were some young students from the University at Groningen digging a trench, and recording information for teaching purposes or merely just for show, however, the actual excavation was over. Other students participating in the excavation were from Saxon High School and the Missing Link Mangers for Archaeology.
Daan Raemakers from the Archaeology Department at Groningen is also involved with the Funnelbeakers site which may indicate the elaborately decorated pottery found at the site will be studied at his University, along with the amber chains, polished axe, and flints.
The Visitors’ Day included a slide lecture that was given on the findings by Henk Van de Veld. To the side stood glass cases with some of the relics taken from the site, amber beads, stone axes, and the amazing Funnelbeakers pots, of which 120 were excavated.
In fact, Mr. Van de Veld appeared at a television talk-show where he actually passed around some of the pots for participants to hold. Of particular interest was a very small, decorated pot that was taken from a child’s grave. Imagine what would have happened if someone had dropped the fragile, low-fired pots. See link below for a Dutch TV broadcast.
When the presentation over, Mr. Van de Veld was asked whether anything would be saved or consolidated for posterity. He replied, “That’s impossible.” A good example of consolidation is at Woodhenge in England which was consolidated by pouring concrete in the ancient postholes. This, at least, leaves a sense of what was there and preserves the orientation and layout of the site.
When asked whether he had contacted the Mayor of Dalfsen, to discuss with him the possibility of consolidating the ritual platform, sacred center of the Stone Age site? Surely the plans for houses and new neighborhood could be modified somewhat, so that the ancient memorial heritage would be saved? Van de Veld became very nervous, then evasive, his speech blurred, and then he walked off.
The path to destruction took years and involved a covenant with the Province of Overijssel which had the final approval over the development plans. It began on September 27, 2010 when the Municipal Council of Dalfsen presented their “Structural Vision” for building 900 houses. The municipality of Delfsen noted that the housing site had “high archaeological expectations.” For four weeks, the municipality of Dalfsen provided the citizens with insight to their development and building plans and ultimately concluded that the project had sufficient public support and the Municipal Council agreed upon the project.
According to Dalfsen’s Archaeology Policy, because of “high archaeological expectations,” archaeologists had to be employed as required by the Treaty of Malta.
Dalfsen drafted an Archaeology Policy in 2012 that stipulates:
a) The commitment to meet technical regulations by which archaeological values in the ground can be preserved.
b) The commitment to carry out an excavation.
c) The commitment for the work or workings that lead to ground disturbance should be guided by an expert in the field of archaeological care of monuments which meets the standards set by the mayor and high municipal officials for the permit to meet specific qualifications.
ADC Archeo Projecten, the firm chosen to perform the excavation of the building site, presented the Municipal Council with three options for their dig and when asked by the Council which would be best, ADC recommended the second of the three, US $720,870. – the most expensive option.
A ground plan for the sacred site before has, so far, not been released to the public. The ritual mound may have been oriented to either the sun or moon, and though this is quite possible, we are unable to confirm this, as sadly, the archaeological ground plan is beyond reach, hidden in the Archis database, only accessible to archaeologists.