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faith & spirituality | indigenous issues | sustainability wto sacramento

Sunrise in Sacramento

At sunrise on June 20th, several hundred people joined Native American elders in a prayer circle on the south steps of the state capitol. The elders are asking for protection of sacred places across California.
On Friday at sunrise on June 20th a Native American prayer circle was held on the south steps of the California State capitol. It was held as part of the protest of the WTO Ministrial meetings. The circle was held to bring attention to the need to protect American Indian Sacred places in California.

4:00 AM - I wake up and decide to head to the capitol build. There is an amazing prayer circle going to happen at sunrise. I don't want to miss it and I don't have an alarm clock.

I go the grounds of the huge domed building. It is surrounded by gardens and massive multi-laned bullevards. At exactly 4:25 AM the birds begin to sing. It is an amazing orchestra of Robins, meadowlarks, and other birds I cannot identify. I sit and listen for a few minutes. I see other people waiting also. One of them tells me that the prayer circle is on the other side of the building. I take off on foot to find this circle. It is very dark.

I find myself in the middle of a botanical garden. I can barely make out the plant varieties. There are palms, and magnolias, and maybe gardenia's. The combined fragrance is sweet and almost pungent.

Suddenly there a voice in the dark branches of a tree. The voice floats down. "Do you want an orange?" "What are you doing up there", I ask. "I'm picking oranges", the voice says. Then two others appear and they are laughing and eating oranges. I can just see the outline of the oranges in the trees. These are young people who have traveled across country to help block the WTO meetings in Sacramento. They want to be part of as much of the actions as possible. We are all giddy from lack of sleep.

We find the circle. About 250 people, many of them Native Americans take part in the smudging and blessings and prayers. Then the moderators Radley Davis and Mark LeBeau allow people to speak. There are stories, and songs and talk about the issues of loss of sacred lands.

"Many Californians have recognized that sacred places and American Indian cultures are worth more than gold or geothermal energy and must be protected," said Mark Lebeau, Pit River Tribal member. This gathering will enable every Californian who cares about preserving sacred sites to register that support in a visible way for lawymakers," he continued.

Currently, California Govenor Gray Davis is willing to support a revised Sacred Sites Bill, which is in the process of being finalized. Representatives from nealy 40 tribes have met with Gov. Davis' staff to craft a bill that would protect dozens of sacred places in California. The bill could go tot the Legislature this session. The governor is also considering issuling an Executive Order to address the need to protect teh Medicine Lake Highlands as a sacred place, given that the Sacred Sites Bill would probably not protect theis area because it is located on federal lands.

American Indian elders teach that the practice of Indian Spirituality requires undistrubed access to culturally significant places and ther resources. These specific places derive their power and sacredness from their natural state that is provided by "Hewesis" or Creator. Indian cultures hold the earth sacred, whereas secular culture considers the earth to be real estate. Sacred places, and the ceremonies associated with such areas, are a necessary expression of Indian spirituality, and often are key to wellness. Sacred places are part of the history of Indian nations, and are a significant aspect of the traditions handed from one generation to another.

The gathering this morning was part of a larger National Day of Prayer to Protect Native American Sacred Places being organized by Suzan Harjo and leaders of the Sacred Places Coalition. Susan Shown Harjo is Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee and is President of The Morning Star Institute.

At the ceremony the Native American Elder acknowledges the young people present who are dressed in black. He smudges them with sage and brushes them with black eagle feathers and calls them "young warriors". He calls upon all of those present to develop a greater sense of courage and says "we must all work together to save the earth and it's species and the good people who dwell here.

As the sun came up we stood in six lines facing the morning. Each prayed in their own way for protection of the earth and c

Sunrise Circle 22.Jun.2003 19:21


Thank you for taking the time to share this experience. I am very glad to have read it.
Thank you for spreading the news that we must help and pray and gather to save sacred places.
Be Well