The Man Who Made Standing On Sacred Ground


Sacred places are the oldest form of protected areas on the planet. In my interview with filmmaker, Christopher McLeod we talked about the importance of sacred places to indigenous cultures and the message his documentary series Standing on Sacred Ground has for EuroAmerican culture, the California drought and the Alberta oilsands.

“Most Americans don’t even know where their grandparents are buried. I think that is not just a symbol of disconnection, it is part of the disconnection. We are not living in places where our ancestors have been for generations, so that we know them and love them. We do not remember where people had important dreams or visions or those kind of magical experiences you have at sacred places.” – Christopher McLeod, The Man Who Made Standing On Sacred Ground

In Standing on Sacred Ground, McLeod examined the conflicts that eight widely dispersed indigenous cultures are going through to preserve their sacred places.

“In some cases those are very specific mountains and rivers. We look at the home of the Rainbow Serpent, that is being mined for zinc in Australia. We look at the sacred island of Kaho`olawe, that the Hawaiians won back from the U.S. Navy through a decade of activism,” said McLeod.

In the interview above I focused on two of these stories:

  • “We are running out of river. It is a thought we can hardly tolerate. Hopefully there will be good people who will realize dams are not the answer to the world’s water shortage,” said Chief Caleen Sisk of the Winnemem Winto of Northern California
  • First Nations elders described the tar sands as a violation of everything that is sacred. “The Athabasca River is sacred. The air is sacred. The cycle of life – where the snow comes down, the moose and the caribou eat the plants, fish live a healthy life and people move through that atmosphere – is sacred.”

Read the Written version of this story 

Photo Credits: Caleen Sisk of the Winnemen Wintu, courtesy of the Sacred Land Film Project. For more information go to

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