WASHINGTON - Observances and ceremonies will be held across the country on
June 21 to mark the 2006 National Day of Prayer to Protect Native American
Sacred Places.

''Native and non-Native people nationwide are gathering to honor sacred
places, with a special emphasis on those that are endangered by actions that can
be avoided,'' said Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee. Harjo is
the president of The Morning Star Institute, which organizes the national p
rayer days and is a columnist for Indian Country Today.

Some of the gatherings are educational forums, not religious ceremonies, and
are open to the general public. Others are ceremonial and may be conducted
in private.

This will be the fourth National Day of Prayer for Sacred Places. The
observance in Washington, D.C., will be held at the National Museum of the American
Indian on the National Mall.

The first National Prayer Day was conducted on June 20, 2003, on the grounds
of the U.S. Capitol and nationwide to emphasize the need for Congress to
enact a cause of action to protect Native sacred places. That need still exists.

''Many Native American sacred places are being damaged because Native
nations do not have equal access under the First Amendment to defend them,'' Harjo
said. ''All other people in the United States have the First Amendment to
protect their churches. Only traditional Native Americans cannot get into the
courthouse through the Freedom of Religion Clauses. That simply must change as a
matter of fairness and equity.''

In 1988, the Supreme Court told Congress it had to enact a statutory right
of action, if it wanted to protect Native sacred places. ''Eighteen years have
passed without Congress creating that door to the courthouse for Native
Americans,'' Harjo said. ''And some of these places cannot withstand many more
years of legal and physical onslaughts.

''Native and non-Native people are gathering, again, to call on anyone who
will listen to help protect these national treasures and to do something about
this national disgrace that threatens them.''

There are many events happening across the country, here are a few:

California: Pit River Territory

Pit River, Wintu, Shasta, Modoc and other Native peoples will gather on
traditional Pit River Territory to pray for the protection of the sacred and
natural Medicine Lake Highlands in northeastern California.

Following the ceremonies, there will be a gathering to plan nonviolent
resistance to Calpine Energy's destructive project for the Medicine Lake
Highlands. This action will build on the protest that took place at the Calpine
headquarters in San Jose in January 2006.

Colorado: Native American Rights Fund, Boulder

The Native American Rights Fund will have a sunrise ceremony, which is open
to the public and will be held on NARF's front lawn beginning at 6 a.m. The
program is expected to last for one hour with a prayer ceremony, speakers and a
moment of silence to show concern for the sacred places that are being
damaged and destroyed today

Kansas: Wakarusa Wetlands

Save the Wakarusa Wetlands Inc. - an association of Lawrence-based Haskell
Indian Nations University alumni, students and community supporters - will
observe National Prayer Day at sunrise in the wetlands south of Lawrence.
Participants will ask for the protection of the Wakarusa Wetlands, which is
threatened by highway project.

Missouri: Missouri River

The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe will hold its Annual Prayer Breakfast and Summer
Solstice Acknowledgement. This will be held to honor The Prayer Day for
Sacred Places and The International Peace and Prayer Day, both of which are
observed on the summer solstice.

New Mexico: Morning Star House, Albuquerque

An observance for the protection of all sacred places and sacred beings will
take place at sunrise at the Morning Star House, 6001 Marble Ave. N.E.,

North Dakota: Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, New Town

A sunrise prayer ceremony will take place at the Fort Berthold Reservation,
home of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in North Dakota. Details
regarding the events of the day are available through the tribal office.

Washington, D.C.: The Morning Star Institute at the National Museum of the
American Indian

The observance will take place at the National Museum of the American Indian
on the Mall, in the circle between the east entrance and the Wetlands Pond,
at 7:30 a.m.

Washington: Snoqualmie Falls

National Day of Prayer for the Protection of Sacred Places will be observed
by the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe at Snoqualmie Falls at noon. Attendees are
asked to bring a dish to pass for a potluck lunch to be shared afterwards.

Washington: Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and Lummi Nation

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe will conduct a Prayer Ceremony in Honor of the
Ancestors at Tse Whit Zen Village near Port Angeles. The Lummi Indian Nation
will commemorate a totem to the memory of veterans.


This article first appeared at Indian Country Today