By Emily Cousins

Non-Native Americans need not run their own sweat lodges or play at "being Indian." They should cultivate instead the strains within their own traditions that foster a sense of the sacred earth.

Snow crunched under our feet as we rushed to put up the tent in the dark. We thought our spot in the Sweet Grass Hills would be protected from the fickle October weather, but the slender canyon caught the wind coming out of Canada and funneled it right into the Central Montana plains below us. Our camp crouched between the willow frame of an old sweat lodge and a nearby pine tree laden with the colored cloth of tobacco offerings--reminders that Native Americans have prayed in the sacred Sweet Grass Hills for millennia. To get here, we had followed a rancher's pick-up through miles of buffalo and cattle pastures down into a creek bottom where our car got stuck in the rocky bed. Now, as we burrowed into our sleeping bags, we wondered if we would be able to drive out. It was easy to feel small in the face of the dark night, the ceaseless wind, and the long history of prayer, vision quests, and Sun Dances.

Safely back at home a few days later, we told a Blackfeet friend where we had camped. "You camped there?" he asked, shocked. "There are strong spirits there. That is a powerful place." His reaction made me think. I had recognized the power of the weather, of the aesthetic beauty, and of the human artifacts, but I had not accessed the power of the place itself. Like so many non-Natives, I had traversed a piece of the American sacred landscape without connecting with the spirits of the land.

The phrase "sacred land" is used frequently these days, both by Native Americans trying to protect land and by non-Natives sensitive to this cause. Yet despite its increased use, the meaning of the phrase remains elusive to many non-Natives, who relate to land mostly through property lines or hiking trails. Traditional Native American cultures, on the other hand, have defined geography through myth, ritual ceremonies, and spirit power. This difference highlights perhaps the widest gulf between the two cultures. It also represents a place where we must meet, as both cultures face environmental crisis.

European settlers arrived in this country thinking they could teach the indigenous people how to live off the land. Perhaps it is time for non-Natives to listen to the experience of people who have lived here for thousands of years. What we stand to learn is not how to appropriate Native customs and ceremonies, but how to respect the land and the traditions it sustains.

"There Is No Selfishness, Which Is at the Bottom of Civilization"

When Native Americans try to explain sacred land to non-Natives they sometimes say, "The Black Hills are our Holy Land," or "The San Francisco Peaks are just like Mount Ararat." These analogies are misleading, however, for they equate land that carries the life blood of Native traditions to land that is more of an abstraction or metaphor for most Americans.

A view from an airplane window may provide a better sense of what land means in American culture. Except for tracts of mountains and desert, much of the terrain is divided into the neat, linear segments of crop parcels and city blocks that define an agrarian society. European settlers pressed these geometrical patterns into the land, for they echoed the plots their ancestors had farmed for centuries. They also embodied the Judeo-Christian belief that humans were meant to have dominion over nature. In America, this legacy of working the land merged with the Jeffersonian ideal that democracy is founded on individuals owning and cultivating 160 acres of land. It did not matter if the 160 acres rested in a lush river bottom or on an arid plateau; all land, like good government, would provide equally.

Since owning farm land brought with it many civilized virtues, nineteenth-century policy-makers concluded that breaking up Indian reservation land into private property might finally "civilize the savages." Many tribes had planted crops for hundreds of years, yet unlike their European counterparts, they planted in land to which they asked permission to farm, offered prayers, and performed rituals of thanks. They saw the land as a living network, not as fragments they could purchase. Once the tribes were moved to reservations, land was held in common by the tribe and individual family groups lived on it as they needed.

Of course, this understanding contradicted the non-Native view that land was an object to be worked for profit. Senator Henry L. Dawes represented popular opinion when he declared in 1885 that Native Americans

...have gotten as far as they can go, because they own their land in common .... There is no enterprise to make your home any better than that of your neighbor's. There is no selfishness, which is at the bottom of civilization. Till this people will consent to give up their lands, and divide them among their citizens, so that each can own the land he cultivates, they will not make much more progress.[1]

In 1887 Congress passed the Dawes Act which authorized the President to divide reservations into privately owned, individual parcels. The Plains tribes protested on the basis that they were hunters, not farmers, while the Five Civilized Tribes claimed that two-thirds of their land was unarable. The law ignored these particularities of place and culture and followed through with its fiat. The Sisseton Sioux reservation provides a good example of its effects: before the Dawes Act, the Sisseton had 918,000 acres of land; after the law, they had 303,838. As dictated by the act, all the rest was sold to the government at $2.50 an acre.

The mystique of private property continues into the present. People who own the title to land can do what they wish with it as long as they follow certain state and federal guidelines. Many assume that grazing animals, pesticides, and toxic waste will respect property lines and not trespass on unwitting neighbors. This deepens our sense that land consists of disparate, unconnected plots. Some Native Americans think that even elements of the environmental movement objectify the land through their policies and management plans. "How can you 'save the Earth' if you have no spiritual relationship with the Earth?" asks Tonya Gonnella Frichner of the Onondaga Nation. "There is an intellectual abstraction about the environment but no visceral participation with the Earth. Non-Indians can't change the current course of destruction without this connection."[2]

The Cycle of Reciprocity

Without a tradition of spiritual connections to the land, some nonNatives look to Native American cultures for an alternative example. Sometimes, they romanticize Native concepts of land, imagining that tribes maintain a changeless state of harmony with nature. The reality is far more complex. Some tribes court income by opening toxic waste dumps, while other reservations- much to the dismay of environmentalists- are littered with trash and junked cars. Yet beneath or beside these realities, many tribes sustain a respect for the land with a depth that surpasses simple stereotypes. Far from being sentimental, many of these relationships with the land are essential to life. "To us when your land is gone, you are walking toward a slow spiritual death," says Carrie Dann, who has fought a twenty-year battle against the government over access to Shoshone land in Nevada. "We have come to the point that death is better than living without your spirituality."[3]

Such intensity in the name of land is not unique to the Shoshone. Across the American landscape, several hundred tribes relate to their geographic areas in distinct ways. Yet despite the differences between the dry Canyonlands of the Ute and the moist Everglades of the Seminole, certain similarities emerge in the way Native American cultures relate to the land.

Perhaps one of the most pervasive concepts is the belief that land is alive. Every particular form of the land is the locus of qualitatively different spirit beings. Their presence gives life to and sanctifies the land in all its details and contours. In many traditions, the beings who inhabit the land are not thought of as gods and goddesses who rule over the mountains or rivers. Rather, they are the mountains and rivers. For instance, Frank Mitchell, a Navajo Blessingway singer, says that after First Man and First Woman created the four sacred mountains of Navajoland, First Woman paused and said, "I wonder by what means [the mountains] will be made to be alive!... Let some beings take standing positions within them! In matter of fact, if there be none standing within them, they are but things that lie around without a purpose."[4] First Woman then called the diyinii, or Holy People, to become the life and spirit of the sacred mountains.

Since the land is comprised of living beings, most Native American cultures have a tradition of entering into relationships with the land. Relating to non-human beings is possible because, unlike Western categories which draw dichotomies between human and animal, animate and inanimate, natural and supernatural, most Native American traditions stress interrelatedness among all things. This relatedness is most often rooted in the perception of a shared spiritual reality. that transcends physical differences. Some believe this common essence is the life breath, others refer to it as the presence of the Great Spirit. The Seminole are not unique in believing that the interrelationship between humans and animals stems from metamorphosis. "We believe that in the beginning, creatures had the ability to change shape--from animal to human, from human to animal," says Virginia Poole, a Seminole/ Miccosukee medical clinic director. "So we learned that you had to be careful what you said; you never knew if you were talking to a human or animal."[5] Navajo creation stories reveal that there are no strong distinctions between humans and some of the Holy People who inhabit the land, because both types of beings were created from related substances: corn, precious stones, and Changing Woman's skin.

When people recognize a spiritual essence shared by the world around them, their interactions with the land take on a quality of reverence and respect. Instead of being one-sided, with the humans taking what they need and not giving back, these relationships become mutual, based on reciprocity. "Nobody owns the land," explains Virginia Poole (Seminole/Miccosukee). "We said we'd watch over it, because that's our responsibility. You take care of the land, and it takes care of you."[6]

In these reciprocal relationships, the land provides for people by sharing its power. The Lochsa River in Idaho, for instance, gives the Salish sacred songs they perform in their ceremonies. The Big Horn mountains in Wyoming and Mountain give the Crow Sun Dancers the paint they apply to their bodies during the Sun Dance. The manitos that inhabit the Northwoods landscape help heal the sick when the Ojibwa perform their Medewewin medicine dance. The rocky arroyos and fresh-water springs of Arizona act as grandfathers and grandmothers who remind the Western Apache how to treat other people and live a good life.

In return for all that the land shares, the people must offer thanks. This may include praying, singing songs of gratitude, or leaving tobacco offerings. Some tribes believe that since the land has made a sacrifice by giving to humans, humans too should sacrifice by leaving behind something that holds importance for them, such as a special feather or a piece of jewelry. Tribes also give thanks by performing ceremonies that are tied to the land. Since some ceremonies have been given by the land or draw their power from the land, participating in them honors what the land has shared with humans. For instance, many of the Blackfeet medicine bundles in use today originated on vision quests in the Sweet Grass Hills. When people conduct the ritual of opening the bundles, they show thanks for the gifts from the Hills.

Part of showing gratitude includes treating the land with respect by not polluting it, wasting its resources, or dramatically altering it. Interfering with the land has its consequences. Since most tribes perceive a relatedness among beings, they realize that disturbing an ecosystem may start a chain reaction of flooding, species extinction, or cancer. "We have these earthquakes and other natural disasters because people are poisoning their Mother the Earth, they are poisoning her bloodstreams and cutting off her hair. They're not following the laws about caring for the Earth," explains Janet McCloud, a direct descendent of Chief Seattle and a spokesperson for Nisqually fishing rights.[7] Chief John Snow (Assiniboine) describes perhaps one of the most tragic consequences of abusing the land: "If an area is destroyed, marred, or polluted, my people say, the spirits will leave there. If pollution continues not only animals, birds, and plant life will disappear, but the spirits will also leave. This is one of the greatest concerns of Indian people."[8]

Because the stakes of interacting with the land are so high, many tribes try to maintain the traditions of gratitude and respect. Some, however, find it difficult to conduct the appropriate rituals, since many sacred sites rest on private property or are managed by government agencies. The Bitterroot Salish, for instance, were forcibly removed from their homeland in Western Montana's Bitterroot Valley to a reservation a hundred miles north. Now, when Salish archeologist Marcia Pablo Cross travels to the sacred sites in the valley, she feels that the places are lonely. She says it is as if they are whispering, "Where are you? Why haven't you been doing your dances?"[9] When elders are able to pray at the sites, the mountains, the river, and the creeks seem to soak up the Salish words. Those prayers of thanks are necessary to maintain a balanced relationship between the land and the people. When they go unheard, the land becomes saddened, and the people who live in the valley today remain removed from the power that surrounds them.

When Time Takes Place: The Mythic Landscape

While all land is alive, mythic events can layer certain places with further spiritual significance. Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday explains how mythic time and sacred place converge: "Time has a spatial extension, that which once happened literally took place, and still has a place."[10] Mythic events become deposited in the landscape and continue to reverberate in certain springs, buttes, coves, and bluffs. For instance, the waterfall where Coyote got into trouble or the place where a tribe emerged into this world continue to embody the power of mythic time. People return to these sites to pray, fast, or gather special herbs, for they know the places have the power to respond to their entreaties.

Salish people, for instance, tell the story of how Coyote and Fox passed through the Bitterroot Valley in Western Montana preparing the world for humans. Down in the southern tip of the valley, Coyote got into a fight with Big Horn Sheep. Coyote made Big Horn Sheep so angry that the ram charged after him. Tricky Coyote, however, stepped out of the way and the ram crashed right into the trunk of a ponderosa pine. That happened in the long ago, but Big Horn Sheep's horns are still lodged in the tree. Today, the Salish drive from miles around to pray at the tree, because they know that special power continues to resides there. The tree is laden with the colored strips of cloth, tobacco offerings, small feathers, and special stones that people offer in return for the blessings and power the place shares with them.

Often, after a mythic event, a mythic figure will come to inhabit a certain land form. People can feel their presence lingering as they walk along a ridge that is the twisting body of Great Snake or see a rock that is a monster's heart. Lakota elder Lame Deer says that a long time ago when the world was still new, a water monster named Unktehi caused a great flood that flushed all the people from the soil. After the flood, Unktehi turned into stone and came to live in the badlands where her backbone forms a long ridge and her vertebrae stick out in a neat row of red and yellow rocks. The story does not end there, for it is not a mere explanation of why a land form looks like it does. Rather, it is a key to why the land has the power it does. Lame Deer goes on to say, "It scared me when I was on that ridge, for I felt Unktehi. She was moving beneath me, wanting to topple me."[11]

Events that set these mythic cycles in motion are not limited to "the long ago." In 1863, for instance, while Kit Carson was leading a United States Army campaign to intern the Navajo at Fort Sumner, a small group of Navajo fled to the western edge of Navajoland. In the distance, they saw the Head of Earth Woman (Navajo Mountain), a mountain shaped like a loaf of blue cornbread. They slipped behind it, and as the army closed in, a miraculous event took place. Monster Slayer, Changing Woman's son who cleared the earth of monsters in mythic time, was suddenly reborn on top of the Head of Earth Woman. Like a rain cloud in the monsoon season, he was born and raised in the course of one day. He and the Head of Earth Woman formed a shield between the Navajo and Kit Carson's army. The army was repelled, and the band was one of the few who escaped the Navajo's four years of confinement and starvation at Fort Sumner. Since Monster Slayer's appearance, the Head of Earth Woman is a source of power for the Protectionway, a ceremony performed to ask for protection, avoid misfortune, or pray for something to happen within a single day.

While mythic events give significance to certain places, it must be stressed that the entire Navajo landscape is thought to be sacred by the people. For many tribes, the landscape is not a surface of patchwork sites physically and spiritually isolated from one another. All created forms of the landscape have a spiritual essence. All are alive. In their 1994 study of Navajo sacred places, Klara Bonsack Kelley and Harris Francis write that while there are qualitative differences between places, Navajo elders believe that no one place is more "sacred" than another.[12] There is a unity, a series of relationships that binds all places together. For instance, Kelley and Francis write, no place can be "singled out for preservation while the surrounding landscape which the place both gives significance (power) to and takes significance from is destroyed."[13] Such an attempt at preservation, says Blackfeet activist G. C. Kipp, would be like saving the altar as you tear down a church.

"These Mountains Are Just as Alive as Anybody"

Don Good Voice tells the story of a Chippewa-Cree man who went to fast in the Sweet Grass Hills. On his way there, the man stopped to ask a rancher which access road he should take to the West Butte. After the rancher gave the man directions, he asked him, "So, are you going up there to fast? When you get up there, could you ask those spirits to come down and give me some rain for my crops?" The man agreed and headed into the West Butte. As he prayed for the rancher during his fast, rain came and drenched the fields. Don Good Voice concludes, "To me that is like a small example of the power of those mountains. You ask for something as simple as water, as simple as rain, and you get it. Just think what we could ask if we were serious as human beings going there to ask for peace, to turn world events around."[14]

This story reveals something of the power and possibility most Native American traditions recognize in the land. In this type of lived experience, all of the themes I have broken down for the sake of this essay remain tightly woven together. Seeing what a specific place means to a specific culture can help non-Natives understand how land plays not an auxiliary or symbolic role, but is a central, necessary force in many Native traditions. The Sweet Grass Hills in North Central Montana is one of many examples from the American landscape which holds such great significance. Far more than mere hunting or camping grounds, these Hills give meaning to countless religious ceremonies. Since my first experience camping there, I have spoken to many Native people and gained a better understanding of what the Hills mean to their traditions.

The three conical buttes of the Sweet Grass Hills are visible for over a hundred miles as they rise 3,000 feet from the prairie floor. The view, however, can differ, depending on what culture you come from. A group of non-Native business people from Minnesota recently looked at the Hills and saw an opportunity to open pit mine for gold. In contrast, when local Plains tribes look at the Hills, they see a part of an intricate web connecting the people to the elements, animal beings, plant beings, tribal ceremonies, and the Creator.

Just as the Hills define the horizon in this flat country, they have also shaped the traditions of the Chippewa-Cree, Blackfeet, Mandan, Arikara, Assiniboine, Gros Ventre, Salish, Kootenai, and Northern Cheyenne and their ancestors for millennia? Many of the tribes who used the Sweet Grass Hills were traditional enemies, but the Hills comprised a neutral zone in which no one could be attacked. As long as people did not carry weapons on their journey to the Hills, it was clear they had come to pray. People went alone to fast for visions or gathered together for ceremonies. Aerial photographs of the Sweet Grass Hills reveal two to three thousands tipi rings etched by centuries of Sun Dance ceremonies? Some traveled from great distances because the Hills are linked to far away sacred sites such as Chief Mountain in the Rocky Mountains, the Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, and the Black Hills in South Dakota.

What draws so many Native people to the Sweet Grass Hills is their sacred power. Like the Navajo, many Plains tribes recognize that while all land is sacred, certain places have qualitatively distinct sacred power. Some of this power is revealed through mythic events. For instance, when a young Blackfeet man named Scarface set out to talk to Creator Sun, he went first to the Sweet Grass Hills to fast for the knowledge necessary to find the Creator. On the last night of his fast, the spirit of the East Butte came to Scarface, infused him with its power, and told him where he had to go next. Scarface's fast in the Hills launched a journey that culminated in meeting the Creator Sun and returning home with instructions on how to perform the Sun Dance, one of the Blackfeet's most important ceremonies.

The Chippewa-Cree believe that the Hills are where the Creator began remaking the world after the great flood. They also say that when the buffalo were annihilated in the nineteenth century, they descended into a large cave in the Hill's West Butte, a belief underscored by the fact that the Hills were one of the last areas where the buffalo remained before their demise.[17] Contemporary stories, such as Don Good Voice's story of the man praying for rain, tell of the powerful events that continue to occur in the Sweet Grass Hills.

It is because of this power that the Hills have become embedded in Chippewa-Cree religious tradition. "Since time immemorial, the Sweet Grass Hills was one of the focal points of our tribe to seek out spiritual guidance, a spiritual sense of belonging," explains Don Good Voice. People journey to the Hills to fast and communicate with the Creator. Fasting for a vision is a physically and spiritually exacting ceremony in which individuals go without food or water for four days and expose themselves to the elements and the spirits. Chippewa-Cree elders say that when people fasted in the old days, they accepted the possibility that they would die in the process. The Sweet Grass Hills repay that sacrifice by giving the people spiritual power, endowing people with the strength to heal illnesses or face life's challenges. They also give over 350 plants for medicinal and ceremonial use. Perhaps most important, the Hills give songs the Chippewa-Cree use in their ceremonies, songs that allow them to communicate with the spirits. Tribal elder Pat Chief Stick stresses, "Those songs are not composed. They are spiritual songs." Indeed, they are given by the spirits in the Hills.

The Chippewa-Cree's relationship with the Sweet Grass Hills is a part of the larger sense of relatedness the tribe maintains with the world around them. Pat Chief Stick explains:

Here's what the old people tell us. The mountains, the air, the water, the wind, the rock, the wood, everything in the ecology- we use every bit of the ecology in our religious ceremonies. These things, wind, air, mountains, water, rock, Indian religion, are connected. Whenever we do the ceremonies, we gather all that stuff. That's the reason why they're so powerful.[18]

And if one of those elements is destroyed, the ceremonies and the tradition could suffer. "It's like when you make medicine to cure some one," says Chippewa-Cree tribal member Don Good Voice. "If you are missing one ingredient, it won't work. That's how it is with the Sweet Grass Hills. Our medicine, ceremonies, prayers- without the Hills, none of it will be as effective." With the proposed mine project, which will release cyanide into the water table and turn the mountain peaks into gaping holes, all the tribes who pray in the Sweet Grass Hills must face such a possibility.

The conflicts that arise between the miners and the tribes highlight some of the differences between the two cultures. Although the federal government has prohibited mining on public lands in the Hills, it claims that it cannot stop mining on private lands. Private property, it seems, takes precedence over First Amendment rights of freedom to exercise religion. Most court cases related to religious freedom refer to practices, such as a Jewish soldier wearing a yarmulke in the Army or an Amish child going to a public school. The courts fail to recognize that sacred land is essential to Native American religious practices, and that when the natural state of sacred land is disturbed, the whole tradition suffers. A National Register of Historic Places report on the Sweetgrass Hills makes that crucial connection:

Native American cultural leaders teach that this spiritual presence is not necessarily a permanent condition, but can only exist with the context of an undisturbed natural setting. Substantial disruption of the natural pristine qualities of the Sweetgrass Hills will displease the spirit life and spirit powers, and may cause them to leave forever.[19]

Protecting a few vision spots while mining the rest of the Hills does little to solve the problem, since the spirits of the land are interconnected. "These Hills are not just sacred in one place. Every bit of those mountains are sacred," Pat Chief Stick says simply.

With a temporary moratorium on mining in the Sweet Grass Hills, the tribes continue to seek legal and legislative ways to protect this essential force in their religious traditions. In the meantime, many also turn to prayer. Don Good Voice says that at an annual, intertribal camp in the Sweet Grass Hills people pray "that owners of the mines will change their minds and see that these mountains are just as alive as anybody and that they want to live too. We pray that they will respect that sanctity of life and the spirituality of those Hills."

When the tribes pray for the miners to respect the life and spirituality of the land, they are essentially praying for the miners to understand a relationship to the land that is foreign to them. Nonetheless, such a request is appropriate, since many non-Natives make decisions that impact the land and endanger tribal religious traditions. Coming to understand Native American interactions with the land, however, does not mean non-Natives should run their own sweat lodges and play at "being Indian." Such a response would be superficial at best and at worst offensive to Native Americans and their traditions.

More important than copying rituals is learning about the land and how to interact with it. As newcomers to this continent, non-Natives are still becoming acquainted with its landscape. Dakota novelist Susan Power reminds us that underneath the map of America lies a ghost geography--a network of Native American trails, villages, and traditions that has existed since long before Europeans arrived. Most non-Natives remain unaware of this terrain. They might stroll down a Chicago avenue without knowing that it was once a Pottawatomie trail, or they might hike through the Great Smoky mountains without noticing the plants the Cherokee use for medicine. Learning this history can help ground non-Natives in the American soil. Native creation stories can call their attention to distinct landforms, while traditional farming and hunting practices can reveal positive ways to interact with certain ecosystems. In his "Afterword" to the volume America in 1492, Vine Deloria, Jr., encourages us to reflect on the degree to which non-Native Americans "have responded to the rhythms of the land--the degree to which they have become indigenous."[20] In this context, "becoming indigenous" does not mean becoming Indian. It means knowing the land where we live and showing it respect.

Learning about Native American religious traditions can help non-Natives in this process, because they offer a model of what constitutes a spiritual relationship with the land. Seeing this model may encourage non-Natives to reflect on their own traditions and cultivate those strains which foster a sense of sacred land. For Jews, that may be the wisdom of the Psalms, or for Christians, the lessons of the Desert Fathers or Saint Francis. Placing a relationship to the land in a religious context, as opposed to an economic context, may help make the life force of the land seem less remote. In may also help non-Natives come to see the land as a distinct being deserving of respect. As Navajo elder Mamie Salt says in reference to a Navajo mythic figure, "This is Changing Woman's land, only she can say, 'It's my land.' Only hell is everybody's land."[21] According to Mamie Salt, hell is land that has no spirits to claim it.


1. D'Arcy McNichol, They Came Here First (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1949), 264.

2. Ronnie Farley, Women of the Native Struggle (Crown Publishers, 1993), 116.

3. Sandy Johnson, ed., The Book of Elders (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994), 127.

4. Trebbe Johnson, "The Four Sacred Mountains of the Navajo," in Parabola (Winter 1988): 43.

5. Jane Katz, ed., Messengers of the Wind: Native American Women Tell Their Life Stories (New York: Ballantine Books, 1995), 178.

6. Ibid., 182.

7. Ibid., 282.

8. Chief John Snow, These Mountains Are Our Sacred Places (Toronto: Samuel-Stevens, 1977), 145.

9. Conversation with Marcia Pablo, September, 1995.

10. N. Scott Momaday, The Names (New York: Harper and Row, 1976).

11. Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz, eds., American Indian Myths and Legends (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), 94.

12. Klara Bonsack Kelley and Harris Francis, Navajo Sacred Places (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 42.

13. Ibid., 50.

14. Conversation with Don Good Voice, December, 1995. Future quotes from Don Good Voice are from the same conversation.

15. When the National Trust for Historic Preservation added the Sweet Grass Hills to their 1993 annual list of Most Endangered Historic Sites, they noted that the Hills had been used as a sacred site for 12,000 years. Chere Jiusto and Dave Schwab, National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form, United States Department of the Interior, National Park Services, NPS Forms 10-900-a (1991).

16. Conversation with Pat Chief Stick, Chippewa-Cree tribal elder, in March, 1996.

17. Chere Jiusto and Dave Schwab, p. 13 of Section E.

18. Conversation with Pat Chief Stick, March, 1996.

19. Jiusto and Schwab, p. 6 of Section F.

20. Ines Talamantez, "American Indian Women," in In Our Own Voice, ed. Rosemary Radford Ruether and Rosemary Skinner Keller (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995), 405.

21. Kelley and Francis, Navajo Sacred Places, 30.


By Emily Cousins

EMILY COUSINS is a writer and editor living in Missoula, Montana. She is currently collaborating with Joseph Epes Brown on a book entitled Teaching Spirits: Towards An Understanding of Native American Religious Traditions. Excerpts of this article will also appear in that volume.

Copyright of Cross Currents is the property of Association for Religion & Intellectual Life and its content may not be copied without the copyright holder's express written permission except for the print or download capabilities of the retrieval software used for access. This content is intended solely for the use of the individual user.
Source: Cross Currents, Winter96/97, Vol. 46 Issue 4, p497, 13p.