Indian peoples constantly are engaged in a battle to maintain and protect traditional and cultural beliefs. They must have access to sacred sites and be allowed to practice their spiritual beliefs in peace. These are not merely cultural and spiritual concerns, but human rights that are identified and protected by international law. The Indian Law Resource Center helps Indian peoples to protect these rights and these sacred sites.
In 2009, the counsel we provided to the Quechan Tribe and its legal team to help protect their sacred sites from gold mining claims yielded positive results. That June, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Tribunal released its long-awaited decision in the Glamis Gold dispute against the United States. The international tribunal recognized state and local government obligations to respect indigenous cultural rights. We hope this result will pave the way for increased participation by other indigenous peoples in international economic law disputes. We will continue to assist the Quechan Nation as needed.
We will continue efforts to provide communication training and assistance to Indian nations on protecting sacred sites. For example, we have been a part of the campaign to protect the sanctity of Bear Butte—a site near Sturgis, South Dakota that is held sacred by numerous tribes—from potential destruction that could be caused by the granting of hard liquor licenses and the development of huge outdoor amphitheaters. We will continue to support this effort as requested by Indian nations.