The common mythology of the United States is that we were founded by people seeking religious freedom. This is a story we’re all familiar with, and a story that discounts the existence and beliefs of the people who already lived here when Europeans landed on the shores. It discounts the beliefs of the people — both European and African — who were brought over with their white European overlords and forced to practice the religion of these masters.
The common mythology of the founding of the United States discounts a lot of things. But for now, I want to stick with religious freedom, or if you’re inclined, the right not to practice a religion or believe in a higher power.
I think most of us can agree, at least for ourselves, that we appreciate that there isn’t someone who tells us what we should believe (even if some of us would like to dictate this for others). And I think, for those who aren’t strongly religious but wouldn’t claim atheism, the ability to claim being “religiously ambiguous” or “religiously confused” seems somehow reassuring. This is, at least, how it seems for my friends who are still exploring their faith.
Why do I bring this up?
Great question. Because right now, you have the opportunity to help the Lakota Sioux protect Pe’ Sla, an area in the Black Hills of South Dakota that’s part of their creation story and a key place for ceremonies. On August 25, 2012 1,942.66 acres of sacred Sioux land, privately owned by the Reynolds family, will be auctioned off in five parcels to the highest bidder(s). The Sioux nations are organizing to buy as much of Pe’ Sla as possible — and they’re trying to raise $1,000,000. Through a flexible funding campaign, they will receive 100% of donations made before 11:59 PM PT on August 23.
According to one source, a reporter who is an integral part of the campaigns I linked to in the previous paragraph, the state of South Dakota has indicated a desire to develop this land — in no small part by building a road through the land. This infringement on Native rights by the US government shouldn’t come a surprise — it’s not like we don’t know the long history of broken promises, lies, and intransigence. And it’s not like the government’s infringement on Native rights regarding land-use isn’t currently an issue (many issues, if we’re being honest but that’s other posts).
We’re talking about a major opportunity to contribute to the right of others to practice their religious traditions. We’re talking about land defense. We’re talking about the opportunity to protect sacred land, and to demonstrate that we can–and should–protect the rights of others that we ourselves enjoy.
I encourage you to read this blog post by Dana Lone Hill, one of the campaign organizers, to get a bit more background information on the land, the campaign, and why this campaign is important. And, I encourage you to contribute what you can — regardless of whether that’s money or additional publicity for this cause, or other forms of support.
Do what you can, with what you have.