December 1, 2001

Dear Friends,

Greetings. Something in the world has shifted since September 11, 2001. Seismic shift. Shift in consciousness. Do we have the strength to see this wave of destruction as a wave of renewal?

Where do we turn for wisdom?

The filmmaker Toby McLeod in his extraordinary film, In the Light of Reverence, offers us clues by taking us into the heart of three stories where native people—the Lakota, the Hopi, and the Wintu—stand their ground in the center of their homelands which are at the center of controversy. We hear the voices of elders remind us of the enduring grace of Earth as they struggle to maintain the integrity of their communities from Devils Tower to the Hopi Mesas to Mount Shasta.

“The most important thing is nature. Nature takes care of your mind and heart and soul,” says Florence Jones, as she fights ski development on the flanks of Mount Shasta.

To remember. To stand together in these tender and uncertain days. To support brave and courageous actions. To foster community in the name of these sacred lands.

It is for these reasons, I encourage you to find a way to see and support this powerful film. In the Light of Reverence bears witness to that which endures and gives us courage to speak on behalf of the wildlands that sustain us. Most importantly, we can honor and support the struggle of Indian people as they try to maintain their way of life that acknowledges the world as holy and whole, at once.

Toby McLeod is bringing this film to communities all over America, creating opportunities for discussion with tribal leaders who are sharing their vision of sustainability with non-Indian people. We are invited to understand what they have always known: We cannot survive the destruction of the land.

I urge you to see this film and support its transformative vision. It is a vision of hope, courage, and restoration.




Terry Tempest Williams

December 1, 2002

Dear Friend,

American Indian people possess an extraordinary ability to face down adversity and continue to move forward. It’s because our traditional indigenous knowledge systems have sustained us since time immemorial and continue to inform our contemporary lives.

Traditional lifeways, including spiritual practices, continue to exist and prosper in even the most troubled communities. But the sacred places our people have visited for thousands of years are being destroyed. This complete disregard for the spiritual practices of indigenous people must be stopped.

In the Light of Reverence is a film that clearly articulates issues indigenous peoples face as they struggle to prevent their worldviews and beliefs from being marginalized by people who believe spiritual places are structures built by men, not by the Creator.

The Sacred Land Film Project is helping build the growing activist movement to preserve lands sacred to Native Americans. By educating the public and decision makers about the threats to land and culture, the Project is playing a key role in the process to enact much-needed legislation.

You can help In the Light of Reverence reach a wider audience with your financial contribution. And you can help defend sacred places by joining the Sacred Land Defense Team. I urge you to lend your support in whatever way you can.

Thank you very much.





Wilma Mankiller
Principal Chief, Cherokee Nation, 1985-1995

December 1, 2003

Dear Friend,

Around the world, profound, ancient cultures with much to teach us about nature and the purpose of life are threatened by the cancer of commerce and human arrogance in the guise of progress and development. Against an army of rumbling bulldozers and giant mining trucks, and battalions of slick lobbyists, cynical politicians and foreign mining interests, a small, besieged group of native religious leaders makes their last stand in defense of their holiest places of worship.

The moral equivalent of the great cathedral of Notre Dame, or St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, or the Western Wall in Jerusalem, these holy places — many older than the world’s greatest cathedrals and temples — stand in the path of modern development and, if unprotected, will be gone before anyone notices.

For the last 20 years, I have worked with the Sacred Land Film Project to educate the public about why sacred places are important and what they can teach us about living in balance with nature in a society that is sustainable. Protecting sacred sites is about honoring our own humanity as a part of creation. I urge you to support this important project.

Miigwech — thank you.





Winona LaDuke

December 1, 2004

Dear Friends,

I’d like to share with you some good news about the status of sacred lands protection in North America, and to recognize the pivotal role of the Sacred Land Film Project in these newsworthy events. As someone who has served as a technical advisor to several tribes attempting to protect their sacred lands, these last twelve months have offered us a gratifying surprise.

There were two major victories for sacred lands activists in the Southwest this last year: the withdrawal of the Salt River Project’s water pumping plans that would have ruined Zuni Salt Lake; and the temporary closure of the Mohave Generating Station, the final destination for water and coal stripmined from Black Mesa.

Seldom do we get to celebrate within a single decade even one victory as significant as either of these two recent turning points. Corporate powers that were formerly callous to sacred land concerns can no longer ignore the strong momentum, generated by those of many cultures and faiths, to safeguard historically important sites around the nation.

Of course,we should all congratulate the Native American spiritual leaders who first raised these issues and have prevailed in their struggles despite seemingly insurmountable odds. But when I reflect on why two major benchmarks in sacred lands protection were reached within the same year — during a period in American political history that has otherwise been so discouraging — I can only conclude that the Sacred Lands Film Project’s inspiring efforts were critical to this watershed.

I was present in Flagstaff, Arizona,when more than a thousand individuals from Navajo, Hopi, Anglo and Hispanic cultures turned out for viewings of In the Light of Reverence, with hundreds staying for over two hours of follow-up dialogue and heartfelt discussion. Few films have stirred people’s souls as deeply as this film. In turn, the film has catalyzed citizens’ involvement in a longer,more participatory process that continues to this day.

I urge you to support the Sacred Land Film Project to assure sanctuary status into perpetuity for the places on this continent that uniquely connect the land and the human spirit.





Gary Paul Nabhan, PhD.

Professor in Applied Indigenous Studies,Northern Arizona University

Author of Singing the Turtles to Sea, and co-editor of the Sacred Lands and Gathering Grounds Toolkit

December 1, 2006

Dear Friend,

In his upcoming book, Blessed Unrest, my good friend Paul Hawken observes that the environmental movement, the social justice movement and the indigenous rights movement are converging. Soon they will become one consolidated movement — a quantum leap in our engaged work to improve our ailing environment and protect it from an increasingly destructive culture.

The Sacred Land Film Project has been bridging these divisions for 25 years. I have been proud to narrate SLFP’s films, which skillfully blend environmental issues, human rights and indige- nous wisdom. They turn solid journalism and social commentary into powerful art.

Countless sacred sites are threatened around the world. The indigenous communities fighting to protect them are lucky to have an ally in SLFP. Losing Sacred Ground will not only document these nearly invisible struggles, but will initiate dedicated campaigns to educate everyone from schoolchildren to legislators — those who influence and make decisions affecting these special places.

Please join me in generously supporting this unique organization. Its important work gives me hope that we can halt the destruction of sacred places, and by so doing, heal the earth in the process.

Thank you.





Peter Coyote

December 1, 2007

Dear Friends,

As a journalist and media critic, I know how hard it is to get controversial stories out to the public. Our concentrated corporate media are captive to shareholder demands for profit and thus fail to tell many important stories. Filling the gaps are people like Toby McLeod and the Sacred Land Film Project.

I first met Toby 30 years ago, at U.C. Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism—before global warming, devastation of the environment and destruction of cultures had become the alarming national and international stories they are today. I have been Toby’s teacher, advisor and colleague. I have seen him grow into a creative force for positive change. Even as a student, Toby learned that indigenous people were the most knowledgeable and devoted to the areas their ancestors had lived in. He understood
that once-ignored people and places had become urgently important indicators of the condition of our planet, and that preservation of native cultures and their sacred lands is critical to sustaining life on Earth. Toby gained this insight through years of hard work, patience and respect, and by taking the time to build relationships with indigenous people to earn their trust. Without these relationships, he could not tell the stories that result in the protection of holy grounds.

Saving sacred places takes the concerted efforts of many, but the work of the Sacred Land Film Project is a key link in the chain. I am proud to be a longtime supporter of this important work. I hope you will join me in helping Toby continue to tell stories that must be told.




Ben H. Bagdikian
Professor Emeritus
University of California at Berkeley

December 1, 2008

Dear Friends,

It is not difficult to see the darkness that covets our attention. Almost by rote now we can enumerate the reasons for despair — environmental degradation, congenital corporate greed, political cravenness. It’s harder by far to see the light, harder still to believe this light is not some stage trick, that it is real and to be trusted.

In my experience, traditional people the world over, no matter how bleak their circumstances become, never lose track of the light, not as long as they are able to protect their sacred sites and their elders. The elders, the living repositories of all a tradition “knows,” are chosen generation after generation for their ability to remember, their singular capacity to hold onto the light.

The great, hopeful story of my adult life has been the convergence over the last few decades of the international movements toward social justice and environmental protection, and the resurrection of a belief in the Sacred that transcends the formulations of religion. This development, sometimes broadly defined as a movement toward civil society, has at its heart a simple idea: any system of governance not founded on social justice, respect for the integrity of the Earth, and reverence for what lies beyond the human imagination is doomed to failure. In our time, with global climate change, we are justified in saying “doomed to catastrophic failure.”

Where do we turn now for direction and reassurance? We look to each other.

I have been working alongside Toby McLeod for 27 years. Whenever I feel I am in danger of losing a sense of purpose, the work of the Sacred Land Film Project is, for me, a source of revitalization and clarity. It brings the convergence of social justice, environmental integrity, and reverence into focus. In the accompanying materials I believe you’ll see why. The Project comes through. Its people listen carefully to those outside their culture. And they turn the light they discover into a light we can see.

I urge you to join me in supporting the Sacred Land Film Project in its efforts to identify, elucidate and protect part of the ancient foundation for humanity’s claim to intelligence and grace.

All over the world, their work makes us look good.




Barry Lopez

December 1, 2009

Dear Friends,

We are at a watershed moment in civilization. The world faces multiple crises on every front: climate change, deforestation, corruption, poverty, pollution, species extinction and the erosive loss of cultures — one every two weeks. If one reads the headlines and looks at the data, pessimism is justified and rational. However, when you look at the efforts of thousands of individuals and organizations, like the Sacred Land Film Project, working to restore the earth and protect indigenous cultures and their sacred land, you find the home of optimism.

Toby McLeod has long recognized and acted upon a simple truth I learned years ago from a Native American friend. The division between ecology and human rights is an artificial one; the environmental and social justice movements address two sides of a single, larger dilemma. Toby’s films make visible the fact that the harm we inflict on the earth affects all people, and how we treat one another is reflected in how we treat the earth.

Traditional lands represent the greatest remaining sanctuaries of life on earth — the most unspoiled forests, mountains and grasslands — and constitute one-fifth of the earth’s land surface. With a deep understanding of the land’s importance to their physical, cultural and spiritual health, some 5,000 indigenous cultures work to protect their homelands against resource hungry corporations trying to commercialize and destroy these biological arks. Our fate will depend on how we understand and treat what is left of the planet’s abundance — its lands, waters, species diversity and people.

The Sacred Land Film Project plays a vital role in bringing the voices and wisdom of indigenous peoples to those who make – or can influence – decisions about the future of traditional lands and the people whose lives and cultures depend on them. Toby helps indigenous cultures show us an image of a future by which we can escape our present path, the one that induces pessimism.

Please join me by giving generously to our friends at the Sacred Land Film Project. Help them continue to tell the important stories that offer a vision of how the earth and its peoples must be treated.





Paul Hawken

December 1, 2010

Dear Friend,

In expeditions to remote regions over six decades, I have seen how the traditional ecological wisdom of indigenous men and women protects our natural world. At the heart of virtually all native cultures are sacred sites and landscapes: places of prayer and ceremony, sources of vitality for land and people. These are the oldest protected areas on the planet, preserved by reverence and a deeply embodied sense of kinship with all forms of life.

I have supported the work of Toby McLeod and the Sacred Land Film Project since the 1970s. When Toby and I first met, we discovered a shared horror that the American Southwest was being treated like a “national sacrifice area,” where coal and uranium extraction prevailed over all other interests. To this day we are still committed to the global struggle to prevent sacred sites and cultures from being bulldozed by corporations and governments with little regard for the health of the earth or the welfare of indigenous people.

The Sacred Land Film Project works effectively to protect the world’s endangered sacred places by shining a light on industrial irresponsibility and the invaluable ecological knowledge still guarded in the treasury of sacred lands around the world.

I urge you to join me in supporting this important work.




Peter Matthiessen

December 1, 2011

Dear Friend,

At the White House last August, as hundreds of citizens were being arrested for demonstrating their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, I heard indigenous elders from Alberta, Canada, describe the human and environmental costs of the tar sands industry. Deformed fish in the rivers and lakes, cancer clusters, and tailings ponds that will continue to pollute for thousands of years—extraction of the dirtiest of oils has severe implications for people who live close to the land. Yet indigenous values and cultural connections to land remain strong among these people on the frontlines of a nightmare. Their determined resistance holds the key to our collective future.

Long before most people had heard of tar sands, the Sacred Land Film Project was in Alberta filming the behind-the-scenes story of the industry’s harm to people and land. It is one of eight stories from around the globe told in the Standing on Sacred Ground series. This film series presents indigenous wisdom as solutions to the challenges facing life on the planet. In stunning images and deeply inspiring voices, attitude-changing documentaries are created.

I am writing to ask you to give generously to the Sacred Land Film Project. After five years of filming they are now editing urgent stories we all need to see. Every donation counts.

Please join me in supporting the work of director Toby McLeod and the Sacred Land Film Project.

What happens next is up to us.

Thank you,



Bill McKibben