Talking Sense: Message from a Native leader on World Peace and Prayer Day

Chief Arvol Looking Horse
Chief Arvol Looking Horse, of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, has warned of “chaos, disasters, and severe tragedies for all life” if we don’t “unite all humanity at Mother Earth’s sacred sites.” Writing in Indian Country Media Network on the occasion of World Peace and Prayer Day on June 21, 2017, he decried the destruction of indigenous holy places around the United States and the world.

A spiritual leader of the Sioux people since the age of 12, Looking Horse participated in the 2017 prayer day's main ceremony at Mauna Kea, in Hawaii, where Native Hawaiians and others seek to prevent the summit from being further desecrated by the installation of giant telescopes. The gathering was one of many worldwide ecumenical prayer events on the summer solstice.

Looking Horse has taken public positions on protection of sacred sites and the environment many times. He was among those who led the People’s Climate Marchin April 2017 in Washington, D.C. He also spoke out during the 2016 demonstrations surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, in North Dakota.

In addition to endangering the water of the tribe and millions more downstream, the builders of that oil line bulldozed tribal burials, cairns and other culturally important places, seemingly vindictively and purposefully. The sites were destroyed shortly after being revealed to the court so that they could be protected under national historic-preservation law. Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! segment on attack dogs being set on tribal members during the destruction caused worldwide outrage. A large group of U.S. military veterans, some of whom are seen in the accompanying photograph, joined tribal members at Standing Rock in December, 2016.

Looking Horse points out that, notwithstanding damage and desecration, innumerable holy places still exist all over the globe. Despite what Looking Horse called “man-made” laws that empower government functionaries and scholars to decide what is and is not sacred, and what will and will not be protected, indigenous people continue to follow “natural law” and revere and preserve these places for the good of all.

Text c. Stephanie Woodard; photographs c. Joseph Zummo.

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