Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The end of the road for the Wetlands? A continuation of the “Trail of Broken Promises” and failure to protect indigenous sacred spaces

Is the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on the fate of the wetlands adjoining Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, USA the end of the road? On July 10, 2012, the 3 judge panel made a unanimous ruling that would permit the construction of a road across the wetlands.

This is despite the arguments raised to preserve the wetlands as historically significant. This court ruling is not welcomed news for those who favour the preservation of the wetlands. The court's ruling fails to capture the importance of the wetlands and their connection to the history of not only Haskell, but of indigenous peoples and their relationship, past, present and future to the United States. Commentary on the wetlands has been the subject of a previous blog post.

The 10th Circuit decision can be seen as just one more event in the chain of events that devalues the sacred spaces of indigenous peoples. As detailed in this news story, Haskell students completed their “Trail of Broken Promises” walk on June 29. The walk was in support of proposed legislation that would provide additional domestic protections for indigenous sacred spaces, the Protection of Native American Sacred Spaces Act.

This fact sheet provides an overview of the US legal protections for sacred spaces, but comments that despite these, “There are numerous existing laws intended to protect Native American sacred places and even more that can be used to do so, but most of these laws are being ignored and flaunted.”

Until the laws are adhered to with regard to sacred space protection, the "Trail of Broken Promises" seems likely to continue.

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