UN Indigenous Peoples’ Day – August 9th

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Article 32)
India, Dongria Khond
Free, Prior and Informed Consent

Implementing Universal Standards

The right to free, prior and informed consent is enshrined in the International Labour Organization Convention 169 (ILO 169–which only 22 countries have ratified to date) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Article 32), which states:

1. Indigenous Peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.

2. States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the Indigenous Peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.

3. States shall provide effective mechanisms for just and fair redress for any such activities, and appropriate measures shall be taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impact.

The final study on Indigenous Peoples and the right to participate in decision-making by the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples gives advice on consultations and on the implementation of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).

The element of “free” implies no coercion, intimidation or manipulation; “prior” implies that consent is obtained in advance of the activity associated with the decision being made, and includes the time necessary to allow indigenous peoples to undertake their own decision-making processes; “informed” implies that indigenous peoples have been provided all information relating to the activity and that that information is objective, accurate and presented in a manner and form understandable to indigenous peoples; “consent” implies that indigenous peoples have agreed to the activity that is the subject of the relevant decision, which may also be subject to conditions.”

Winnemem Wintu Sacred Sites Threatened

McCloud River, California

McCloud River, California

In 2008 Sacred Sites International put Northern California’s, McCloud River Watershed on our 2008 List of Endangered Sacred Sites. This is still an urgent issue, especially for the Winnemem Wintu who stand to lose more than a dozen sacred places if the level of Shasta Dam  is raised by 20.5 feet.

You can learn more about the Winnemem Wintu at their website:

We also recommend an excellent article, Winnemem Wintu Sacred Places, in the Spring issue of News from Native California

You Can Help!
Participate in our Urgent-Action Letter-Writing Campaign

Please write polite letters, send emails (linked) or make phone calls, to the following decision-makers asking them not to raise the level of Shasta Dam because of the cultural devastation  and the loss of sacred sites which infringes on the right of the Winnemem Wintu to practice their religion.

Dianne Feinstein
California Senator
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Barbara Boxer
California Senator
113 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Tom Birmingham
General Manager, Westlands Water District
400 Capitol Mall
Sacramento, CA 95814

Katrina Chow
Manager, Shasta Dam Raise Project
2800 Cottage Way
Sacramento, CA 95825

Fran Pavley
Chair, State Senate Committee on Natural
Resources and Water
State Capitol, Room 4035
Sacramento, CA 95814-4900

Jeff Kightlinger
Executive Officer, Metropolitan Water District
P.O. Box 54154
Los Angeles, CA 90054-0153

Jerry Brown
Governor of California
State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Michael L. Connor
Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation
1849 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20240-0001

Robert Quint
Senior Advisor, Bureau of Reclamation
1849 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20240-0001

Sacred Sites International’s 2013 List of Endangered, Lost and Saved Sites


Endangered Sites

Site: Wirikuta Mountain also called Cerro Quemado, Mexico

Location: The highlands of San Luis Potosi near the town of Real de Catorce, Mexico. The site is located within the Wirikuta Cultural and Ecological Reserve.

The Threat: The Mexican government has granted 22 mining permits to Canadian- owned First Majestic Silver and over 70% of the permits are within the Wirikuta Cultural and Ecological Reserve. The proposed mining threatens the sacred wholeness of Wirikuta and threatens its ecosystems. The mountain is home to the greatest diversity of plants in the Chichuahuan Desert with a unique diversity of cacti and numerous endemic species of plants and animals.

Mining creates erosion and the process of mining creates waste called tailings which contain high amounts of heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and mercury.

Who Considers it to be Sacred: the Wixarika people, often referred to as Huichol

Why is it Sacred? Wirikuta, the place where the sun is born, is one of the most important shrines where the Wixarika maintain the fertility and balance of the world. Wirikuta is also the place where the Wixarika ancestors emerged. The Wixarika people make an annual 300-mile pilgrimage to the mountain, stopping at important shrines along the way to carry out rituals and collect their sacred plant, the hikuri, which allows their ancestors wisdom to be transmitted. Upon reaching Wirikuta the maraakate, or spiritual leaders, perform ceremonies that maintain harmony in the world.

Wirikuta is the foundation of Wixarika society and children learn about it early in life. They ritualistically visit the sacred mountain through drum ceremonies held at sacred altars every year until they are five years old. The mountain is the basis of knowledge passed

By elders to young people who go on to carry traditions forward as they have been from generation to generation through the centuries.

What is its Status? The Wixarika, supported by international environmental and cultural groups, have proposed making the area a protected Biosphere to prevent mining. The government will hand down a decision possibly as early as June, 2013.


Site: Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga, Kenya, Africa


Location: Central Kenya near the town of Muranga, Africa

The Threat: Degradation of the site because of poor management. Unfinished buildings are evident, such as an unfinished Cultural Center Performance Hall and hotel. The “Visitor’s Book” appears to be the walls of the buildings which are covered in graffiti. There are disputes over building an exterior wall.

Who Considers it to be Sacred? The Gikuyu or Kikuyu community

Why is it Sacred? It is considered to be the mythical “Garden of Eden,” or place connected with the origin of the Gikuyu tribe.

This place figures into the origin stories of the tribe. The Creation story begins on Mt. Kenya where God, Ngai, created the first Gikuyu man who was instructed to go to a specific place to the south of the mountain where there was a grove of fig trees, Mikuyu. Here Giyuku found a woman, Mumbi, who became his wife. The roots of the fig tree entered Mother Earth nourishing the tree and connecting with God. The Creation Goddess came together with the the milky essence of the Mukuyu tree  resulting in Gikuyu and Mumbi giving birth to 10 daughters who became the mothers of the 10 Gikuyu clans.

What is the Site’s Status? The National Museums of Kenya and Murang’a County Council are the custodians of the site and there are Kikuyu caretakers. Disputes arose in the summer of 2012 over the building of a wall around the perimeter of the sacred site by caretakers.


Site: Mount Taylor, New Mexico, United States

Location: Southwest New Mexico near the town of Grants, USA

The Threat: Uranium mining on federal, state and private lands. Mount Taylor sits on one of the largest sites of uranium ore and mining is under consideration for federal, state and private land. The 1872 Mining Law governs much of the land and permits mining without environmental

The Threat: Uranium mining on federal, state and private lands. Mount Taylor sits on one of the largest sites of uranium ore and mining is under consideration for federal, state and private land. The 1872 Mining Law governs much of the land and permits mining without environmental review or assessment of its impact on cultural resources. Mining would also adversely effect the primary source of water for the Acoma  Pueblo. Their water comes from the Rio San Jose that is primarily fed from the snow-melt from Mount Taylor. Wind blows radioactive dust throughout the region, children play with tailing pipes strewn about the landscape, and houses have been built with radioactive waste tailings built into cement used in housing.

There is also a small coal mine on the north side of the mountain that degrades the site.

Who Considers it to be Sacred? American Indians of the pueblos of Acoma, Laguna, Hopi and Zuni. It is also sacred to the Navajos. It is a pilgrimage place for as many as 30 American Indian tribes including the Apache, Arizona Oodam groups, Pai and Utes.

Why is it Sacred? To the Navajo, who call it Tsoodzil or the turquoise mountain, it is one of four sacred mountains marking the cardinal directions and the parameters of Dinetah, the traditional Navajo territory. Tsoodzil is considered to be the southern edge of their territory and is associated with the color blue and female gender. In Navajo oral histories, the four sacred mountains were created by First Man from the earth of the holy Fourth World molded together with sacred matter in the perfect likeness of mountains from that world.

Mount Taylor is the home of the Acoma Goddess of Creation. Mount Taylor is the source for Acoma people for sacred pine bows held by dancers in rituals and for logs used in the construction of kivas. Short pine branches from the top of the mountain are also held by dancers at Acoma.

What is its Status? As of February 2013, the US Forest Service has been engaged with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and other organizations, including pueblo and tribal representatives regarding potential environmental and cultural impacts from the proposed La Jara Mesa and Roca Honda uranium mining projects. The Forest Service announced that they would supplement the La Jara Mesa Draft Environmental Impact Statement with more materials when additional information is discovered.

An application for inclusion of the mountain on the State of New Mexico’s Register of Cultural Properties as a Traditional Cultural Property is being held up due to litigation by mining companies challenging the designation. An application for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places has been prepared but has not been submitted.

Saved Sites


Site: Kukaniloko Royal Birthing Stones, Oahu, Hawaii, United States

Location: Island of Oahu, near the town of Wahiawa, Hawaii

Who Considers it Sacred? Native Hawaiians

The Site was Saved From: Development, which included a 2007 proposal for an 18-hole golf course and 3,100 homes and a more recent proposal to build 50-70 homes with large lots dedicated to agriculture. So called “Estate Farms” are rarely farming entities and this would have allowed further subdivision.

Background: The site is surrounded by a 1,750-acre parcel of land known as the Galbraith parcel that was once a pineapple farm. The heirs of Galbraith tract explored many options for divesting themselves of the land.

The Preservation Solution: The Galbraith heirs, working with the Hawaii director of the Trust for Public Land, agreed to sell the land for conversion into many small farms ensuring that the birthing stones would retain their natural environment.

Cultural and Sacred History: The birthing stones are believed to have been used by royalty in the 12th through 17th centuries. Birth on the sacred stones  at Kukaniloko ensured the child would be blessed by the gods. Royal women would give birth against these stones to assure regal status for their offspring. This was considered essential to confer royal status and maintain royal lineages. After birth, the child was taken to a nearby heiau, Ho’olonopahu, for purification rites and the cutting of the umbilical cord by Kahuna’s or priests. Sacred chanting and drumming would announce the royal birth.

Pleasant Grave

Site: Mary Ellen Pleasant Burial Place, California, United States

Location: Tulocay Cemetery, Napa, California

Who Considers it Sacred? The African American community of the San Francisco Bay Area considers this a sacred site for a forerunner of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King.

The Site was Saved From: Neglect, vandalism and lack of attention to her story.

The Preservation Solution: Susheel Bibbs, a former CAL Lecturer, did extensive research on the life of Mary Ellen Pleasant and published a book, Heritage of Power, later working on a PBS film, Meet Mary Pleasant. Bibbs, with aid from the Napa Valley Museum and Tulocay Cemetery, raised money to install a new granite plaque at her burial site. A memorial ceremony included the above named supporters along with The National Parks Service.

Historical Background: Mary Ellen Pleasant was born a slave near Augusta, Georgia, between 1814 and 1817, to a Haitian Voodoo Priestess and a Virginia governor’s son, John H. Pleasants. She came to San Francisco in 1852 during the Gold Rush to escape the Fugitive Slave Law of 1852 that could have put her in jail for her work in the Underground Railway. Pleasant had been involved in rescuing escaped slaves in the Eastern United States. In San Francisco, she worked a variety of jobs and owned a number of businesses. She amassed wealth that she used to employ, sponsor and help African Americans in business. She also helped ex-slaves by hiring lawyers to defend them against unfair laws. From 1863-68 she successfully orchestrated lawsuits and court cases to fight against laws that prevented blacks from riding San Francisco’s trolleys. One of them, Pleasants vs. North Beach and Mission Railroad, was used in 1982 to change modern civil-rights law. At one time, she owned a 30-room mansion in San Francisco on the corner of Octavia and Bush that is marked by a memorial plaque.


Site: Huialoha Congregational Church, Maui, Hawaii, United States

Location: Kaupo district, the leeward side of the island of Maui, Hawaii, at a place called Mokulau

Who Considers it Sacred? The residents of the East Maui village of Kaupo and town of Hana, with visitors from throughout the world

The Site was Saved from: Disrepair due to age and weathering

Cultural and Sacred History: The church was built in 1859 by Congregational missionaries with the labor of Native Hawaiians. By the 20th century, the congregation had dwindled and guest preachers from the Congregational, Episcopalian and Baptist traditions performed services once a month.

When the Kaupo Ranch opened in 1929, the ranch employees and paniolos, Hawaiian cowboys, attended the church and the ranch looked after the church. The Ranch manager from 1967 to 1982, Carl “ Soot” Bredhoff  organized a renovation of Huialoha in1978. He teamed up with his friend, Carl “Linky” Lindquist to raise money for the restoration.

By the 21st century, the church had again fallen into disrepair and Linky” Lindquist and “Soot” Bredhooff again coordinated the renovation efforts. Their efforts were delayed for a year when a bridge over the only road into the area washed out. Tragically, before work could begin, Lindquist was swept out to sea in a flash flood that occurred on Thanksgiving of 2011.

The Preservation Solution: A visiting French-Canadian, Stephan Lefebvre, had come to Kaupo Ranch on a vacation to ride with the paniolos. During his vacation, the cowboys told him about the church needing repairs to its floor. When he learned of the tragedy that had befallen Lindquist, he abandoned his vacation and teamed up with Jason Kidd, the minister of Wananalua Church in Hana, for what he thought might be a weekend job with enough volunteers. The call went out and they were expecting maybe twenty-five people – fifty showed up. It was soon determined that one weekend would not be enough and the church floor was stripped to its foundation and the rotted pine floor was replaced with hardwood. “Soot” Bredhoff and Charles “Uncle Chunga” Kahaleauki Jr. had been involved in the 1978 restoration and they guided this one, too. Stephan Lefebvre abandoned his plans to return to Canada until the work was done.

Repairs are continuing and the roof will be replaced in a few weeks. The floor needs additional finishing, and the windows and doors need replacing. Fundraising continues for these efforts.

Donations can be made at: http://www.huialohachurchkaupo.org

Lost and Damaged Sites


Site: Volcanic Tableland Petroglyphs, California, United States

Location: Inyo County, California. It is located on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) territory and is a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Who Considers it Sacred? The Bishop Paiute-Shoshone Tribe

Why is it Sacred? The volcanic cliffs are sacred because ancestors of the Paiutes and Shoshones created a vast array of petroglyphs having sacred significance and they are still used for sacred ceremonies. The site is used by elders to instruct tribal members and their children about their historical and spiritual connections to the place and to their ancestors.

Cultural History: The face of the rock cliff is covered with petroglyphs that were incised more than 3,500 years ago. The petroglyphs include images of hunters, deer and other animals along with geometric shapes.

How was the site lost? Vandalism of some of the site’s petroglyphs occurred in October of 2012. At least four petroglyphs, located fifteen feet above the ground measuring as wide as two feet,were hacked off using power saws. A fifth petroglyph was scarred by hammer blows and is also marred by saw cuts. An additional petroglyph was broken and left behind propped up against a boulder near the visitor parking lot.

What is its Status?: Volunteer Site Stewards have stepped up surveillance of the site and the BLM has offered a $1,000 reward.

Sites & Locations: Syria: The Jobar Synagogue in Damascus; the Umayyad Mosque in Allepo; the Armenian St. Kevork Church (Saint George) in Aleppo


The Jobar Synagogue in Damascus is located in a district that was once a thriving Jewish community. Tradition holds of that Elisha built the house of worship above a grotto where Elijah had taken refuge. As such, the synagogue was built on a site believed to be 2,000 years old.


The Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo also known as the Great Mosque is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site listed as the Ancient City of Aleppo and its historic sites. The Umayyad Mosque has a shrine dedicated to Zacharias, the Father of John the Baptist. While the Great Mosque was founded in the early Islamic period, that is little left from that time. The Mameluke Minaret dates from 1090 and was considered, before its destruction, to be a very good example of the great period of Islamic architecture in Syria.


The Armenian Orthodox Church of Surp Kevork (St. George) in Aleppo was badly damaged by an interior fire caused by the war.

The Watch List of Sites Still Endangered

The Petroglyphs of the Burrup Peninsula, also known as the Dampier Petroglyphs, Australia. This site was on our 2005 & 2008 List of Sites as Endangered by Petrochemical Development and this development is still inflicting considerable damage on the petroglyphs.

The Hensler Petroglyphs, Wisconsin was listed on our 2008 List of Sites as Endangered by a quarry; it is still negatively impacted by the quarry dust and debris.

Mount Croagh Patrick, Ireland

Mount Croagh Summit, Ireland

Mount Croagh Summit, Ireland

Mount Croagh soars over small villages in County Mayo, Ireland. It’s quartzite summit rises over 2500 feet, or 765 meters, and is called Cruach Phadraig in Gaelic or “The Reek” for short. It was the home of the Celtic God, Crom Drubh, whose festival time was August 1st, a time of fertility at the beginning of the harvest season. Women would make a pilgrimage to its peak and sleep there in hopes of encouraging fertility. The Celtic past is marked with archaeological evidence in stone foundations of an ancient oratory on the mountain top. There is also a natural rock outcrop known as “St Patrick’s Chair”, that may have figured in pagan rites.

St. Patrick vanquishing snakes on Mount Croagh Patrick

St. Patrick vanquishing snakes on Mount Croagh Patrick

Today, the mountain is known for its association with St. Patrick who visited the mountain during the pagan festival time and is said to have vanquished snakes, (an act similar to St. Michael slaying the dragon), a symbol for pagan earth-based religions. St. Michael was seen as conquering pagan ways and replacing them with Christianity.

Today, the mountain is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Ireland and pilgrims climb the summit, many with bare feet, on the last Sunday of July. There are a number of stations on the pilgrimage where Catholic rituals are performed such as saying Hail Marys and Our Fathers and circumambulating the chapel. A holdover from the pagan era is the tradition of cicumambulating a place called Roilig Mhuire, or the Virgin’s Cemetery, which consists of three rock cairns.

The mountain remains in all its sacredness and continues to be recognized as a place of beauty with a spiritual presence.

Save Wirikuta – The Wixarika Sacred Mountain

Wirikuta Demonstration

Wirikuta Demonstration

The Wixarika (we-SHA-re-ka), often incorrectly referred to as Huichol, are an agrarian based culture. Each year, after their harvest is finished and they have completed their seasonal ceremonies, they embark on a 500- kilometer pilgrimage to their most sacred mountain, Wirikuta. The mountain, also called Cerro Quemado, or Burnt Mountain, is the birthplace of their ancestors – the very center of their universe where the ancient ones emerged. It is essential for them to return to this place every year to allow their shamans to seek spiritual guidance for the good of their people and the based culture. Each year, after their harvest is finished and they have completed their seasonal ceremonies, they embark on a 500- kilometer pilgrimage to their most sacred mountain, Wirikuta. The mountain, also called Cerro Quemado, or Burnt Mountain, is the birthplace of their ancestors – the very center of their universe where the ancient ones emerged. It is essential for them to return to this place every year to allow their shamans to seek spiritual guidance for the good of their people and the betterment of the planet. Along the pilgrimage route they collect hikuri (peyote) that they use for their prayers and ceremonies.
Wirikuta is threatened by silver mining by a Canadian mining firm, First Majestic Silver Corporation. The Mexican government has granted the company 22 mining permits and 70% of these are located in the Wirikuta Cultural and Ecological Reserve. Mexican official established the reserve to protect the environment and cultural practices of the Wixarika, now they find that this zone is no longer being honored in the spirit is which it was created.
The Mexican government has proposed the creation of a Biosphere Reserve that would protect Wirikuta. The biosphere would prohibit any mining or exploration of an sort in the earth, the water or the atmosphere in and around Wirikuta.
Please write polite letters of support to the government urging them to support the Biosphere proposal. The officials and their contact information is below.
Send Letters to the Following:
Lic. Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa
Presidente Constitucional de la Republica Mexica
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos, Casa Miguel Aleman
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec
Mexico City D.F. 11850
Email: felipe.calderon@presidencia.gob.mx
Lic. Bruno Ferrari Garcia de Alba, Secretario
Secretaria de Economia
Alfonsa Reyes No. 30
Col. Hipodromo Condesa
Delegacion Cuauhtemoc
Mexico City D.F. 06140
Email: bruno.ferrari@economia.gob.mx

Lic. Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, Sec.
Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y
Recursos Naturales
Blvd. Adolfo Ruiz Cortinez 4209
Jardines en la Montana Tlalpan
Mexico City D.F. 14210
Email: c.secretario@semarnat.gob.mx

February 2nd – Imbolc or St. Brigid’s Day

Major festivals in the Wheel of the Year

Major festivals in the Wheel of the Year

February 2nd is known as Imbolc or Brigid’s Day on the Wheel of the Year which is organized around eight festivals based on the solstices and equinoxes. Halfway between these events we find the cross-quarter days of which Imbolc is one.

It can be considered the beginning of spring when the light begins to lengthen as we approach the the Spring Equinox. St. Brigid or St. Brigit was the Triple Goddess of the Celtic empire of Brigantia, which included parts of Spain, France and the British Isles. Before she was made a saint, she was a feminine trinity who governed poetry healing and smithcraft.

St. Brigid's Well, Kildare, Ireland

St. Brigid’s Well, Kildare, Ireland

St. Brigid has a well  at Kildare in Ireland along with a tree called St. Brigid’s Oak. The well and the tree are thought to have curative properties. The well is actually a spring that feeds an underground stream that bursts above ground. It is a place that is still a pilgrimage site with ancient connections where you can feel the mix of Irish spirituality that blends pagan traditions with Christianity.




Traveling the Route to Santiago de Compostela, Spain


By Bill Pritchard

Adventures in this life come in many forms. Traveling to a sacred site on foot has been a particularly gratifying and spiritual experience for me. The journey to which I am referring was a hike along the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain in April of this year. The Camino is an ancient pilgrim’s route through Europe with many offshoots; one route winds its way through the green rolling hills of Galicia to the Camino’s ending point, Santiago de Compostela, the final resting place of the Apostle James.
I joined an organized hiking tour of the Camino in Bilbao, Spain. The group met in Leon, Spain, and we started our 160 km (roughly 100 miles) trek to Santiago in the small village of O Cebreiro. We became peregrinos (pilgrims) following in the footsteps of other peregrinos who have traveled this route since the 10th century. The Camino traverses the countryside through farm and, forests, small villages where the buildings are mad of the local stone, and larger bustling cities.
The hike for me was a time of contemplation and comaraderie as it has been for others over the centuries. Visible signs of the importance of this hike are scattered along the way in the forms of small village churches, deposits of pebbles left at various places, and sacred monuments.
It was quite an emotional experience walking into the plaza in front of the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela after nine days and 160 km on the Camino. A sense of satisfaction and blessedness flooded over me, as I realized that I had joined a long progression of peregrinos to this sacred site. Peregrinos register with church authorities and receive a certificate from the church stating that the pilgrimage has been completed. A special blessing was to attend a pilgrim’s mass just as it has been done over the years at this special place in time and space.

Bill Pritchard is a long time member of Sacred Sites International and a retired teacher

Hampi Bazaar Destroyed


By Bulu Imam

Demolished Bazaar with Virupaksha Temple

Demolished Bazaar with Virupaksha Temple

Hampi, effulgent bloom of ancient Vijayanagara’s glory, wealth, and living cultural heritage of bazaars has been attacked in the name of development, and by none other than the Archaeological Survey of India and the local district administration! Mughal historians from the time of Akbar six centuries ago mention the powerful Hindu empire of Vijayanagar founded about 1336 and developed into an extensive empire in the Deccan south of the Krishna river. It broke up due to a variety of forces in 1565. The Muslims invaded in 1310 when circumstances enabled the rise of Vijayanagar and which extinguished the ancient Chola dynasty with its institutions . Vijayanagara itself was subdued by an alliance of Muslim sultans of Bijapur, Bidar, Ahmadnagar and Golconda at the battle of Talikota and the city was destroyed leaving only the ruins and temples which remained in the living heritage of its descendants.

Vijayanagar, on the south bank of the Tungabhadra river was described by 16th century Portuguese traveler, Domingo Paes – it describes in the moment of its fall when hordes of local tribes – Brinjaris, Lambadis, Kurubis looted the precincts of the city. We also have the description left Italian traveler Nicolo Conti who visited in 1420 during the height of its glory. He estimated the city’s circumference to be sixty miles (100 km). Another account was left by the Persian ambassador, Abdur Razzaq in April 1443. He noted, “ “the shops and bazaars are closely crowded together. By the palace of the king there are four bazaars situated opposite one another . On the north is the portico of the palace of the king. At the head of each bazaar there is a lofty arcade and magnificent gallery, but the palace of the king is loftier than all of them. The bazaars are very long and broad, so that the sellers of flowers, notwithstanding that they place high stands before their shops, are yet able to see flowers from both sides. The tradesmen of each separate guild or craft have their shops close to one another. The jewelers sell their rubies and pearls and diamonds and emeralds openly in the bazaar. In this charming area the palace of the king is contained.” (more…)

Kenyans and the Sacred Land


Contact: Nancy & Leonard Becker
Phone: 510-525-1304
Email: sacredsite1@gmail.com

Explore the Sacred Land of Kenya

Berkeley, CA – Sacred Sites International Foundation (SSIF), a non-profit preservation organization based in Berkeley, California, is working together with Westminster Safaris to arrange a tour of some of Kenya’s most sacred landmarks, called “Kenyans and the Sacred Land”. The objective of this tour is not only to provide a rare cultural experience, but also to increase awareness and promote conservation of the sacred sites visited. The “Kenyans and the Sacred Land” tour will run from June 9-21, 2013 and is currently open for reservations.

Participants of the tour will spend the first few days learning about Kenya’s culture and history while enjoying a relaxing natural atmosphere in the only tented campsite permitted within the confines of Nairobi National Park. Those on the tour will also get a chance to witness firsthand the groundbreaking work of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in successfully rearing orphaned elephants and rhinos and returning them to life in the wild.

During the remainder of the trip, tour participants will find themselves connecting and interacting with the land and cultural history on a level that can rarely be found within large safari groups. The tour will visit two important sacred sites of the Kikuyu people in Murang’a and Othaya: Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga and Karima Hill, where participants will be able to converse and learn from the local people about the importance of these sites. The tour will then travel to Mount Kenya, where the Meru people have preserved the Giitune Sacred Forest, a prayer forest with a vivid oral history. Housing during this portion of the tour will be on a more personal level, as members of the tour will be staying in the rural homes of Meru families.

Those on the tour will still be able to witness Kenya’s breathtaking natural sites upon arrival in Tsavo. Tourists will be able to observe elephants, cheetahs, buffalos, and various other native animals in Tsavo West Natural Park, a savannah ecosystem of open grasslands and woodlands spanning over 7000 square kilometers and teeming with a wide range of major wildlife of the area, as well as a number of diverse plant and bird species. The tour will also make a stop at Mzima Springs, a set of crystal-clear ponds fed by the melt waters of Mount Kilimanjaro. Tour members will experience a stunning view of the park and the volcanic splendor of Chyulu Hills in the Kilaguni Lodge.

The tour will conclude with visits to some of the most sacred sites on the Kenyan coast: the kaya forests. The tour will visit Kaya Kinondo and Kaya Mudzimuvya, indigenous forests that are protected by local conservation groups and an active group of “kaya elders”. A very limited amount of ecotourism is permitted in these kaya forests.

The “Kenyans and the Sacred Land” tour will be led by Dr. Celia Nyamweru, long-time resident of Kenya and current Professor Emerita of Anthropology at St. Lawrence University. Nywamweru previously had worked for 25 years as an Academic Dean at Kenyetta University in Kenya and is internationally renowned for her work in physical geography. Her current work involves social and cultural issues surrounding the kaya forests of the Kenya Coast, research she has been conducting for nearly 20 years.

“Kenyans and the Sacred Land” offers a rare and unique glimpse into the more spiritual aspects of Kenyan history and culture while allowing participants to experience the magnificent natural splendor of Kenya in a tranquil atmosphere. This tour is currently open for reservations.

For a full itinerary and pricing, please visit the Westminster Safaris website.


Rabaii Protect their Sacred Forest

Kenyans and the Sacred Land Study Tour June 9-21, 2013

Kenyans and the Sacred Land: cultural, social and economic issues.

Itinerary June 9 – 21, 2013

Sacred Forest Kenya

9 June: NAIROBI                                                                                                                                                                   

On arrival at Kenyatta International Airport Nairobi, following a day flight from Europe, you will be met by representatives of Westminster Safaris Africa and Professor Celia Nyamweru, long-time resident of Kenya who has been doing research on natural sacred sites for nearly 20 years. We will be transferred to Nairobi Tented Camp, the only camp that is permitted within the confines of Nairobi National Park. Night under canvas in luxury tents, fully furnished with comfortable beds & their own bathrooms with flush toilets.

Overnight, dinner & breakfast, Nairobi Tented Camp.

10 June: NAIROBI                                                                                                                                                         

We will enjoy a relaxed breakfast looking out over the natural forest that surrounds Nairobi Tented Camp. Later in the morning we will have a lecture on Kenya’s culture and history from a distinguished Kenyan scholar. After lunch in camp we will travel through the Nairobi National Park and out through the city to the Nairobi Museum, the headquarters of the National Museums of Kenya and the repository of many of the fossils of early man and his ancestors. The museum also contains cultural artifacts of many of Kenya’s more than 40 ethnic groups. The website for the National Museum of Kenya. After our return to Nairobi National Park we will have a short evening game drive before supper at Nairobi Tented Camp.

Overnight, dinner & breakfast, Nairobi Tented Camp.

11 June: NAIROBI                                                                                                                                                          

Following an early morning game drive, we will have breakfast at Nairobi Tented Camp and then head a short distance out of the National Park and down the road to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where ground-breaking work has been done to successfully rear orphaned elephants & rhino and return them to life in the wild.

From the DSWT we will head for lunch to Utumaduni, a craft center in an outer suburb of Nairobi, where you will also have the chance to buy a wide range of handicrafts from several little shops (Please note that lunch is not included in the tour cost and is to be settled by the group on the day).

After lunch we will visit a very different part of Nairobi, the Kibera informal settlement. Our destination is the Red Rose elementary school supported by the Children of Kibera charitable foundation;

We will visit the school, and have a chance to chat with pupils and teachers. A representative of the school will join us for supper at Nairobi Tented Camp and talk about the work of the school and the challenges facing young people growing up in Kibera.

Overnight, dinner and breakfast, Nairobi Tented Camp.

Muranga-Othaya Sacred Shrine

12 June: MURANG’A AND OTHAYA                                                                                                                  

After an early breakfast, we will travel northeast through the densely populated highland areas of central Kenya, the homeland of the Kikuyu people. Our first stop will be at Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga, the most important sacred site of the Kikuyu and the place that God (Ngai) is said to have given as their home to Gikuyu and Mumbi (ancestors of the Kikuyu people).

After a tour of the site and a discussion of the challenges facing its conservation and development, we will drive on a little further for lunch at the Kiereini Catholic Mission. Lunch, catered by the people at the mission, will introduce us to healthy Kikuyu food. After lunch we will have a tour of the school and a talk about the history of Christianity in this part of Kenya from one of the priests at the mission, as well as a chance to discuss how traditional and introduced belief systems co-exist in people’s lives in Kenya.

We drive on through the fertile highland areas where tea is the main commercial crop to spend the night at the Outspan Hotel. Situated in Nyeri in a serene setting that provides a wholesome experience of business, leisure and adventure. Outspan is, set in a well-tended tropical garden and rolling lawns with views of Mount Kenya. Lord Baden Powell, founder of the Scouting movement spent the last three years of his life here in a cottage called Paxtu which is still preserved to date. To “Outspan” means to “unharness”. This was the place where the traveler would unharness his/her weary oxen on their travels to the north. The hotel was built in 1927 by Major Eric Sherbrook Walker. Outspan is also the base hotel for Treetops also world renowned for hosting the British royal family and other dignitaries.

Overnight, dinner and breakfast Outspan Hotel.

 13 June: OTHAYA AND NANYUKI                                                                                                                                                        

After a good old sumptuous English Breakfast at the Outspan we will drive through Othaya to Karima Hill, a sacred site of four Kikuyu clans. We will be met by members of the local community who have been responsible for protecting this area of natural forest surrounded by densely populated and intensively cultivated farmlands.

After our visit to the site and conversations with the local people, we continue northwards along the western slope of Mount Kenya to a small Art Centre called Lily Pond Art Centre. Here we will enjoy a lovely healthy lunch out on the deck at the Art Centre, right on the equator.  The Centre gives local artists the opportunity to exhibit their work, there is an open studio which allows you to watch artists at work as well as view all the modern African Art that they create. The centre acts as a springboard for many young Kenyan artists, so they welcome guests to come and soak up the atmosphere of this serene and special place, and gain inspiration from the contemporary canvas art from some of Africa’s best artists. As well as art there is a great gift shop with other handcrafted African gifts for purchase.

Later that afternoon we will head to the banks of the Burguret River overlooking private woodlands to our accommodation for the night at Colobus Cottages. The wooden cottages are nestled in a forest valley offering secluded home comfort in a tranquil and pretty setting. Wake up to the sound of the running river, parrots, monkeys and the abundant chirping of the resident birdlife.

The restaurant overlooks the river and offers simple but tasty dishes catering to all tastes and preferences, dinner & breakfast the following day will be taken here.

Overnight, dinner & breakfast Colobus Cottages.

14  June: NANYUKI TO MERU                                                                                                                            

Following a relaxed breakfast at Colobus Cottages we will take the road around the northern slopes of Mount Kenya and to the eastern slopes of the mountain and the highly fertile county of Meru. Here we will be received by our homestay hosts and hostesses, families who have hosted US university students for several years. We will spend the night in their comfortable rural homes and enjoy home cooked Kenyan food while learning about their lives, in which they often combine farming with professions such as school teachers, medicine and local government. Be ready to be woken early in the morning by the crowing of roosters and the lowing of cows!

Overnight and all meals, Meru rural homestay.

Gitune Sacred Forest

15 June: MERU                                                                                                                                                              

Today we will visit the Giitune Sacred Forest, a site that has been preserved by the Meru people. Giitune is a shrine for two Meru clans, whose oral histories tell of a blood brotherhood pact made there. Its main function is as a prayer forest. The forest was designated a National Monument in 2003 and is currently being preserved through the efforts of several agencies, including the National Museums of Kenya and a local group, the Giitune Environment Conservation Group. We will meet with group representatives and learn about their goals of promoting Giitune as an educational and eco-tourism center. We will return to our rural homes for our second night in Meru.

Overnight and all meals, Meru Rural homestay.

 16 June: MERU TO TSAVO                                                                                                                                           

After a very early breakfast we will be on the road, first southwards towards Nairobi and then southeast across the plateau lands whose elevation decreases gradually on the 300-mile journey towards Mombasa. This will be a very long drive if we were to do it all in one day so we break our journey more or less half way between Nairobi & Mombasa at Mtito Andei. At Mtito we will take you into the Tsavo West National Park where we will overnight at the Serena Hotels Kilaguni Lodge.

Tsavo West made famous by the “man-eaters of Tsavo” is a savannah ecosystem comprises of open grasslands, scrublands, and Acacia woodlands, belts of riverine vegetation and rocky ridges. Major wildlife found in the area include: elephant, rhino, Hippos, lions, cheetah, leopards, buffalos as well as diverse plant and bird species. Tsavo is vast covering 7,065 sqkm with temperatures ranging from 20 – 30*C, we will do our best to find you as much game as we can in the limited time we have in the park.

Kilaguni Lodge is about 30 minutes inside the park and is superbly situated in the lee of Mount Kilimanjaro and sheltered by the volcanic splendor of the Chyulu Hills. This classic stone-built lodge overlooks its own water hole, which is visited daily by elephants, buffalos and a wide variety of plains game. One of the first lodges ever to be built in a national park, the lodge is cool, tranquil and hushed for optimum game viewing.

All the spacious ensuite rooms have their own verandas, some overlooking the waterhole, some the Chyulu Hills, which are one of the world’s youngest volcanic ranges.

While in Tsavo and if time permits we will try to arrange a trip to Mzima Springs, a set of crystal-clear ponds, fed by the melt waters of Mount Kilimanjaro, in which the many hippos can be viewed from a submerged chamber

Overnight, dinner & breakfast Kilaguni Lodge, Tsavo.

17 June: TSAVO TO DIANI                                                                                                                                            

After breakfast we will try to visit Mzima Springs then continue through Tsavo West on a small game drive back to the main Mombasa road on our journey to the Kenya coast and south to the Ukunda/Diani area, the site of some of Kenya’s most intensive tourist development and at the same time the place where local communities have struggled to preserve the sacred forests known as kaya forests.

We will arrive at Diani in the late afternoon; we will carry a packed lunch with us in the car and stop en-route (this ill give us time to do game drives in the morning & possibly visit the springs)

Once at the coast we will have a relaxed afternoon by the numerous swimming pools at our hotel or you can go for a stroll down the stunning Diani beach. It’s up to you. In the evening we will have a short presentation about the conservation activities being carried out in this county and in particular the attempts to support the conservation of natural sacred sites through carefully controlled tourism.

The hotel we are staying in Diani is one of the newest and most luxurious on the coast, it is called Swahili Beach. This unique hotel offers a harmonious blend of the architectural influences from the East African coast, Arabia, India, and Zanzibar that have fused over millennia to create the vibrant Swahili culture. Offering an air of sophistication unseen on the Kenya coast, Swahili Beach has been designed with state-of-the-art technologies to ensure minimum short & long term ecological impact, while delivering unparalleled comfort to its guests. In line with efforts to cut the carbon footprint of the resort, the lush tropical greenery, which is synonymous with the Kenyan Coast, has been maintained, and supplemented with exotic and indigenous trees, shrubs and tropical palms.

Overnight, dinner and breakfast Swahili Beach.

Sacred Hut at Kaya Kinondo

18 June: DIANI – KAYA KINONDO                                                                                                                                

After breakfast we travel a short distance down the road from the intensively developed tourist resorts to the indigenous forest of the sacred site, Kaya Kinondo.

We will be received by members of the local conservation group and walk through parts of the forest. After that we move on to one of the nearby villages inhabited by the community who are conserving Kaya Kinondo. We will visit the village school and a traditional healer/herbalist, as well as being entertained by a dance group made up of the local women. Return to our hotel for a late lunch (not included in the rate) and transfer northwards by road to Mombasa, Kenya’s second town and main port. Our night will be spent at Whitesands Beach Hotel in Bamburi, one of Mombasa towns’ northern city beaches.

Overnight, dinner and breakfast Whitesands, Mombasa.

Rabaii People

19 June: MOMBASA                                                                                                                                                     

We will have breakfast at our hotel, followed by a discussion with one of the people responsible for supporting the conservation of the kaya forests throughout the Kenya coast. This person will accompany us to Rabai, a village which is not only the site of the first Christian mission in Kenya (dating back to the 1840s), but also the place where there are several kaya forests, protected by a very active group of ‘kaya elders’. We will visit the church built in the 1840s and also have a tour of Kaya Mudzimuvya, where a limited amount of ecotourism is permitted. After our kaya tour we will be entertained to a lunch cooked by a local women’s group.

After the day’s excursion to Rabai we will return to the hotel where you can relax, get a spa treatment if you wish, go for a swim or an evening stroll down the beach.

Overnight, dinner and breakfast Whitesands, Mombasa.

20 June: MOMBASA                                                                                                                                                     

After breakfast at the hotel, you will have the option of having a relaxed morning at the pool/beach or of traveling into Mombasa town for some shopping. Lunch can be taken at the hotel or in town and in the afternoon there is the option of a visit to Fort Jesus a 17th century Portuguese fort, now a museum and a guided tour through the Old Town of Mombasa. For those who go into town you will have to come back to the hotel to freshen up and get ready for a special dinner we have arranged for your last night at the coast. For dinner we have a magical experience on the Tamarind Dhow, a rebuilt traditional boat that sails gently up Tudor Creek past the old town of Mombasa, Fort Jesus, under the “new” Nyali Bridge that connects the Island to the mainland as we enjoy freshly cooked seafood, sip a “dawa” or other cocktails and enjoy a great evening on the water (vegetarian options for dinner are available). After dinner we will head back to Whitesands for a good nights sleep

Overnight, breakfast Whitesands, Mombasa

21 June: MOMBASA – NAIROBI                                                                                                                                                         

After a relaxed breakfast and a last dip in the hotel pool, we will proceed to the Mombasa Airport for a short flight to Nairobi. At Nairobi Airport we can transfer direct to the international departure areas for our return flights late on the same night.

Fly out from Nairobi International Airport, p.m.

 Safari Rates:

***NB: The safari can ONLY operate with a minimum of 2 guests.

  • Min of 2 people in SINGLE ROOMS on the Safari: USD$ 6,659pp
  • (Third Person in a single USD$ 6016pp)
  • 2 People on the Safari Sharing Twin Room: USD$ 6,375pp
  • (Third Person in a single USD$ 6016pp)
  • 4 People on the Safari Sharing Twin Rooms: USD$ 4,054pp
  • 6 People on the Safari Sharing Twin Rooms: USD$ 3,281pp
  • 8 People on the Safari Sharing Twin Rooms: USD$ 2,894pp

***If there are already 4-6 people sharing twin rooms booked on the safari & an additional guest would like a Single Occupancy room: USD$ 3,565pp 

**** An additional $150 ($100 students) tax-deductible contribution (per person) is to be paid separately to Sacred Sites International at 1442A Walnut St. #330, Berkeley CA 94709.

The above rates are based on a minimum of 6 people traveling. Reduction in the number of people below 6 will result in an increase in the quoted rate per person.

Please refer to Westminster Safaris Africa’s website for full Terms and Conditions Contract as well as our Preparing for Your Safari document for more information. (also see attached Terms & Conditions).

Leave a Comment

Ground Rules     |     Don’t Forget     |     Safety First     |     It’s Covered     |     Library

Copyright © 2011. all rights reserved