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In the Light of Reverence - Devils Tower

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Devils Tower, made famous by Steven Spielberg in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is one of the premier climbing challenges in the world. For the Lakota, and other tribes of the northern plains who perform sun dances and vision quests nearby, solitude and silence are disturbed by the presence of rock climbers, whose culture dictates that the tower be used for personal adventure, not communal prayers.

Lakota scholar Vine Deloria, Jr., an intellectual guide through this complex terrain, says, 'It's not that Indians should have exclusive rights at Devils Tower. It's that that location is sacred enough so that it should have time of its own. And once it has had time of its own, then the people who know how to do ceremonies should come and minister to it. That's so hard to get across to people.' Many Americans, not just Indians, recognize the natural world's inherent spirit and vitality, and are working to protect it and provide for a new way of seeing the Earth and our relationship to it.

Across the USA, Native Americans are struggling to protect their sacred places. Religious freedom, so valued in America, is not guaranteed to those who practice land-based religion. Every year, more sacred sites - the land-based equivalent of the world's great cathedrals - are being destroyed. Strip Mining and development cause much of the destruction. But rock climbers, tourists, and New Age religious practitioners are part of the problem, too. The biggest problem is ignorance.

DEVILS TOWER, part of the IN THE LIGHT OF REVERENCE Classroom Series, tells the story of the Lakota, an indigenous community of the Great Plains, and the land they struggle to protect.

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