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In the Light of Reverence - Mount Shasta

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At 14,162 feet, rising from the surrounding forest, Mount Shasta dominates the landscape of northern California. In a meadow just below the treeline, two communities gather for summer healing rituals amidst a carpet of wildflowers. New Age practitioners have gravitated to Panther Meadows for decades to pray, dance, sing and drum.

Northern California's Wintu community also conducts a renewal ceremony in the meadow. Florence Jones feels that the New Age 'ceremonies' offend the mountain. She is the 88-year-old top doctor of the Winnemem Wintu, and leads a thousand-year-old ceremony at a spring in the meadow. Wintu religion focuses on healing and recreating natural resources, including humans, plants, animals, the spring, and the mountain itself. It disturbs them that 'New Agers' dance naked in the meadow and leave crystals in the water. The walls of the spring are collapsing due to people climbing in and out.

The forest service has also proposed a multi-million dollar ski resort a few hundred yards away with the ski runs coming right down through the Panther Meadows. The Wintu struggle to protect Panther Meadows from the encroachment of the ski resort and the desecration of New Age practices.

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.

MOUNT SHASTA, part of the IN THE LIGHT OF REVERENCE Classroom Series, tells the story of the Wintu, an indigenous community of northern California, and the land they struggle to protect.

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