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.
The other programs in the series are:
Mount Shasta - The Wintu aim to keep their sacred spring on Mount Shasta from harm.
Hopi Land - The Hopi fight to preserve their land and water from strip mining.
Grade Level: Grades 9-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2001
Copyright Date: 2001
VHS ISBN: 1-56029-897-9
"This beautifully-crafted film shows how the places most sacred to Native Americans are being both disrespected and destroyed, and how Indians are fighting back to save their own religious heritage. This film is a wake-up call for everyone who cares about the environment and human rights and deserves every opportunity to reach a broad and diverse audience."
"For those who know nothing about the denial of Native American religious freedom, this film will change minds and open hearts. For those of us already involved in the struggle to save sacred land, this film will energize and inspire."
Walter Echo-Hawk, Native American Rights Fund
"The film clearly articulates some of the issues indigenous peoples all over the world face as they struggle to prevent their spiritual beliefs from being marginalized by people who believe spiritual places are structures built by men, not the Creator."
Wilma Mankiller, author and former Principal Chief of Cherokee Nation
"This respectful, brave, and understated film, which urges the redress of profound historical errors, is itself an act of reparation. In the Light of Reverence reaches beyond cultural disputes to reveal and document the arena of human wisdom."
"The Middle East may get the headlines, but there are battles involving sacred ground in the United States, too, as nicely documented by In the Light of Reverence, on PBS."
The New York Times
"In the Light of Reverence shines a beam on the fundamental differences between two world views, one based on individual rights - including the right to exploit the land for profit - the other, on responsibility to a community that includes people, ancestral spirits and the spirits of the forest and mountains themselves."
Sara Jean Green, Seattle Times