Article tout frais : Fifteen Years Later—Justice for a Sacred Site

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Voici l’essentiel d’un « papier journalistique » que je viens de remarquer sur le web. Le sujet va franchement vous plaire. Car la thématique est « la justice ».

Son titre suggestif (Fifteen Years Later—Justice for a Sacred Site) est parlant.

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Il n’y a aucune raison de ne pas croire de la fiabilité de ces informations.

It’s been 15 years since government officials destroyed my people’s sacred land. Wielding chainsaws and bulldozers, they uprooted our millennia-old traditions and reduced our holy site to overturned earth and scattered rubble. That senseless attack can never be undone. But recently, we finally received some justice for what we lost.

I was a young woman when I first visited Ana Kwna Nchi Nchi Patat, known in English as the Place of Big Big Trees. It is a beautiful and sacred spot, nestled beneath the snow-capped peaks of Mount Hood in Oregon and surrounded by ancient, old-growth trees. Since time immemorial, my people have journeyed to this place to pray, meditate, perform religious ceremonies, gather medicine plants, and honor our ancestors who are buried there.

However, in 2006, the government proposed adding a turn lane to the nearby U.S Highway 26—part of a plan to ease travel between Portland and tourist attractions like Mount Hood. Our tribal members soon alerted government officials to the religious significance of the land and pleaded with them to add the turn lane in a way that still preserved our sacred site.

Our pleas fell on deaf ears. Two years later, government officials unleashed bulldozers on the site, cutting the ancient trees, desecrating ancestral burial grounds, and destroying a centuries-old stone altar. They did this even while admitting there were ways to add a turn lane without harming the site. It was harrowing. To see those trees fallen and the land ravaged by machinery was to see the very soul of my people crushed.

We initially tried to negotiate with the government to restore the site, but we were unsuccessful. We then went to court with the help of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, arguing that the government’s actions had violated our rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Over the course of a decade the federal courts sided against us, ruling that the government would not be held accountable for destroying our sacred place, and that its actions did not burden our ceremonial, cultural, and religious ways of life.

It felt like a nightmare that wouldn’t end. My people spent years in a legal odyssey that never should have begun. We tragically lost those who fought alongside us, like my dear friends Chief Johnny Jackson and Michael Jones, who passed away without seeing a resolution.

With nowhere left to turn, we appealed last year to the Supreme Court, hoping to receive justice for what we had lost. We wanted the Court to make clear that Native sacred sites deserve to be treated with the same dignity as any traditional house of worship.

Views of Mt. Hood National Forest
Views of Mount Hood National Forest, a mountain and river wilderness area located only an hour and half drive from the city of Portland, as seen on Sept. 29, 2020, Oregon.
Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

And recently, with the Court about to consider our case, the government finally backed down. After negotiations with our attorneys at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the government decided to settle our case. It has promised to take concrete steps to restore our site to its original condition—replanting a grove of native trees, paying to rebuild the sacred stone altar, and recognizing the historic use of the site by Native Americans.

While the heartbreak of that destruction will remain a dark chapter in the history of my people, this settlement comes as a bright ray of hope. The Place of Big Big Trees will never be what it once was, but it brings me peace to know that we’ll be able to gather there once again as we’ve done throughout our history.

I pray that the next time the government considers committing another injustice against Native sacred land, it will remember what happened at Ana Kwna Nchi Nchi Patat. Holy places like ours shouldn’t need four walls and a steeple to be protected from government bulldozers.

Carol Logan is a spiritual practitioner of the Clackamas and Kalapuya Tribe. She was joined in her lawsuit by Wilbur Slockish, Jr., hereditary chief of the Klickikat and Cascade Tribes of the Yakama Nation, descendent of Chief Sla-Kish, signatory of the 1855 Treaty with the United States.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

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