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Sacred Sites

Bear ButteAmerican Indians have traditionally practiced a land-based religion, in which the place and space of worship are fundamental. These practices are still an important part of Indian culture and spirituality today. Unfortunately, many sacred and culturally significant places have been permanently destroyed. For those sites that still do exist, holding ceremonies is difficult because of competing interests for land use. Many treaties include special rights and privileges for tribal members to use lands for traditional purposes, but oftentimes these treaty rights are not honored by private landowners, local governments or other authorities.

Many sacred sites are located on federal or public land and some are popular tourist destinations, such as Bear Butte, near Sturgis in South Dakota. Historically, sacred sites such as this have not been well protected from overuse, inappropriate use or vandalism by visitors. Indian people have struggled to continue using these sites in the traditional way, such as holding ceremonies privately, and without having to obtain a special permit to enter a state or national park. Indian people regularly face strong opposition by other parties, and often with little legal recourse or support.

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