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.
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.
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.