The indigenous U’wa who live in the foothills and forests of northeast Colombia’s Andes perpetuate all life by protecting it. The U’wa believe that their homeland is where the world began, and that everything—land, trees, river and sky—is alive and therefore sacred.
The Lascaux Cave is one of 25 caves from the Palaeolithic period located in the Vézère Valley—part of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in southwestern France. Inside the cave, Upper Palaeolithic occupation (dated between 28,000 BC and 10,000 BC) is evidenced by the presence of 6,000 painted figures—of which animals are the main focus—as well as hundreds of stone tools, and small holes along the cave interior that archaeologists suspect may have reinforced tree-limb scaffolding used by painters to reach the upper surfaces.
On the Ramu River in Papua New Guinea, the Songnor have thrived for 6,000 years. Indigenous people living along the Ramu River fear that runoff from the ongoing construction of the massive Chinese government-owned Ramu NiCo mine will poison their water, fish and gardens, and destroy their environment. Those along the coast worry about about the mine waste being dumped at sea and its effect on their health and fisheries.
The greater Bears Ears area encompasses more than 1.9 million acres and is saturated with geological, cultural, spiritual, ecological, and archaeological diversity. Located in the southeastern corner of the land commonly known as the state of Utah, the region is defined by two 8,000-foot mountain buttes that rise above the landscape, twin plateaus resembling the ears of a large bear peeking over the northern horizon. The Hopi Tribe calls this land Hoon’Naqvut; for the Navajo, it is known as Shash Jaa’. For the Ute Tribe it is Kwiyagatu Nukavachiand for the Pueblo of Zuni, Ansh An Lashokdiwe. In each language it is “Bears Ears.”
The Greater Chaco Canyon area is a significant historical, archaeological and sacred site in northwest New Mexico. From the 9th to the 11th century, it was the center of the Pueblo civilization, and was comprised of dense apartment-like structures (pueblos), roads and plazas. The site is considered sacred to multiple Native American tribes and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
The Back Forty Mine is a proposed open pit metallic sulfide mine that would sit 100 feet from the banks of the sacred Menominee River in Lake Township, Michigan. The project is backed by Canadian development company Aquila Resources and if it proceeds, will threaten the water security of the millions who rely on Lake Michigan.
Tiwanaku (Tiahuanacu) is an ancient civic and sacred site consisting of former pyramids and enclosures, gateways and monuments located in western Bolivia near the southeast shore of Lake Titikaka.
Arizona’s sacred Oak Flat is threatened with mining by a multinational corporation.
Unique in the modern world, Mongolia has ten sacred mountains protected by Presidential Decree. Honoring sacred mountains has been integral to both shamanic and Buddhist practice in Mongolia, and the country has some of the oldest officially and continuously protected sites dating back to the 13th century.
The Pirá Paraná forms the heart of a large sacred landscape afforded some protection and self-government by the 2,000 indigenous inhabitants. Employing community-driven initiatives has preserved and strengthened traditional knowledge, protected sacred sites, ensured intergenerational cultural transmission, and in the political realm secured indigenous autonomy and rights to administer state resources within Colombia.