Standing on Sacred Ground

Author(s): Christopher (Toby) McLeod

Year: 2015


In 40 years of filmmaking, I have explored indigenous peoples' relationship to sacred places threatened by extractive industries spawned by a culture that values profiting, owning and collecting material artifacts of great worth. Archaeology – like filmmaking – has evolved in the last 40 years to include the concerns and perspectives of cultures all over the world, including indigenous people. Previous methods labeled Euro-centric, racist or exclusionary have been intensively questioned. If the earth is sacred, if a place is sacred, if a burial is sacred, digging and extracting are considered desecration by many vocal critics. If a ceremony is sacred, many native people feel filming the ceremony is sacrilege. There are now many archaeologists and filmmakers raised in indigenous traditions, and many "outsiders" who have worked with indigenous communities and built trust over decades. The dialogue about what is sacred, what should be respected and left alone, is one of the most important conversations on the planet. Understanding sacred places, apologizing for past injustices, recognition of history and pursuit of reconciliation will heal, restore balance and move us all forward on a better path.

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Cite this Record

Standing on Sacred Ground. Christopher (Toby) McLeod. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395097)