Land as Archetype, Mythic Element?

The history and traditions of native peoples comprise the oldest part of American history; their sacred sites have historic and cultural value. Since the early 1980s, the federal government has listed traditional cultural places (TCPs) on the National Register of Historic Places, which is managed by the Department of the Interior. Many TCPs are sacred sites. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a private nonprofit organization, creates an annual list of the Eleven Most Threatened Historic Sites in the U.S., and in recent years has placed Zuni Salt Lake, the Missouri River, Ocmulgee Old Fields and Indian Pass, all Native American spiritual landscapes, on the list. Sacred sites are some of the country’s most endangered historic sites.

The protection of sacred sites has ecological value. Many sacred places are in pristine natural settings, tucked away from development and serving important ecosystem functions, such as watershed protection and biodiversity conservation. Others, such as Mt. Shasta, are in the public spotlight largely because of their spectacular geographical features. Environmentalists often ally with native groups to protect sacred sites.

Tell us a story about a land spirit?

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