The Osage (Matthews 1961) were the dominant Indian nation in Missouri (Figure 4.11) prior to European contact and through astute diplomacy and military prowess were able to maintain themselves as an important influence until statehood. In the southern part of the state some Quapaw and Tunica villages were located and along the western and central areas of the north Otoe and Missouri settlements were numerous. At the extreme northeastern part of the state Sac and Fox peoples claimed lands. During removal of the Five Civilized Tribes and earlier with removals of Indian nations from the Ohio and Indiana areas some sites in this state were used as temporary winter or refurbishing places. The Wyandotte, for example, lived in the Kansas City area for only a short period of time but established a tribal cemetery that is still in existence.

The vast majority of potential sacred sites in this state are of two kinds: burials and rock shelters. There are also a considerable number of mounds of prehistoric times. Missouri is rich in evidence of former Indian occupancy but no contemporary tribe has come forward to identify specifically with the prehistoric ruins. In Hickory Country, about forty miles east of the Osage Village Historic Site is Pomme de Terre Lake; once Pomme de Terre prairies had a special significance for the Osage. There an ancient battle was fought between monsters coming across the Mississippi and up the Missouri and great animal who dominated the western banks of the Mississippi. These creatures preyed upon humans and were eventually destroyed by the Great Spirit. The Osage once held the Pomme de Terre area as very sacred ceremonial site and it was one of the last areas to be ceded to the United States.

Fort Leonard Wood is the largest military installation in the state and has an outstanding Legacy program (#519) funded in FY92. The base commander has employed a Staff Archaeologist, Richard Edeging who is making an inventory of the numerous rock shelters which are found within the fort. This program provides experience in managing archaeological and cultural resources.


Montana (Figure 4.12) has eight major Indian nations: the Salish (Fahey 1930; Fuller 1974)) and Kootenai (Turney-High 1941) collectively sometimes called “Flatheads” and the Blackfeet (Ewers 1958; McClintock 1968) in the western reaches of the state; the Gros Ventres (Flannery 1953; Fowler 1987), Sioux (Marquis 1993), Chippewa (Tanner 1976; Cleland 1992), Cree (Sharrock 1974; Dusenberry 1962) and Assiniboine (Sharrock 1974; Miller 1987; Rodnick 1930) in the north central and eastern parts of the state; and the Crow (Lowie 1956) and Northern Cheyenne (Ekirch 1974; Grinnell 1956; Marquis 1973; Painter 1893; Powell 1969; Schlesier 1987; Seger 1956; Svingen 1993) along the Wyoming-Montana border in the southern part of the state. The Sioux, Arapaho (Fowler 1982), Mandan and Arikara (Meyer 1977), Shoshone (Trenholm and Carley 1964) and Blackfeet and Blood of Canada can all claim historical occupation of some areas of the state with sacred sites located in these areas.

For the present military land holdings are minimal in the state and unless future plans call for expansion of testing grounds, air bases or bombing ranges, no future conflicts between the tribes of this state and the DoD are foreseeable other than military overflights. Some sacred locations have been destroyed since the tribes went onto the reservations. In Phillips County the Saco Hot Springs and Sleeping Buffalo Rocks were once centers of religious activities, the location having a set of picture writings and being the site of vision quest activities. Members of the Gros Ventres and Assiniboine tribes frequently left flesh sacrifices at this location. At Prior Gap near the Montana-Wyoming border the Crow had an important shrine in the Castle Rocks area but this location was destroyed by the building of a railroad tunnel that was believed to have forced the spirits of the site to move.

A common phenomenon in the Montana area and in some parts of the western Dakotas are the medicine rocks. These rocks have a form of pictographs which, according to traditional people, show a new set of events from time to time. Specially trained medicine men are the only ones who can read and interpret these pictures. There is ample evidence that these rocks performed the function which the traditional people claim. Some of these locations are now within the borders of existing reservations and some rocks appear to have been moved to secret locations so that they can continue to inform the people of future events. Chances are great that if any of these rocks are presently functioning they are already being used by the traditional people in secret locations and would not be vulnerable to exploitation.


The major Indian tribes living in Nevada (Figure 4.13) are the Northern Paiute (Knack and Stewart 1984), Southern Paiute (Euler 1973; Holt 1992; Stoffle, Jake, Bunte, and Evans 1982; Stoffle, Halmo, Ohmstead, and Evans 1990), Western Shoshone (Thomas, Pendleton, and Cappanari 1986; Crum 1994; Harney 1995) and Washoe (Price 1960; d’Azevedo 1986) with some small holdings by the Gosiute whose traditional lands are cut by the Nevada-Utah border. As previously discussed, the Northern Paiute and desert Shoshone covered a vast area, primarily in the Great Basin of eastern Oregon and parts of Idaho. These tribes were composed of many independent small units who shared a common language, desert subsistence style of economics, and basic mythology. While some scholars have drawn occupancy area maps based upon economic or linguistic characteristics, it is fair to say that no single region was exclusively settled by either the Shoshone or the Paiute. The Washoes tended to concentrate in the Lake Tahoe and Sierra Nevada foothills area and were not as involved in desert living as the other tribes.

West central Nevada landscape was once covered by the giant Pleistocene Lake Lahontan. Several areas of massive volcanic lava flows which characterize this part of the Great Basin. This area has a multitude of hot springs and water sources which have unusual mineral content. Lakes and streams are sometimes intermittent; the Humboldt river “sinks” into the ground in places and emerges for a short distance in other places. In terms of marking out a sacred occupancy area for the native peoples in this state locating a network of medicinal springs here is comparable to the configurations of mountains which determine the tribal boundaries in the Great Plains, Arizona and New Mexico.


The two largest Paiute reservations, Walker River and Pyramid Lake; both are Northern Paiute people, as are the smaller reservations such as Fallon, Summit Lake and Fort McDermitt. Southern Paiute reservations include Moapa, Las Vegas. The Pahrump Southern Paiute are seeking Federal acknowledgment. Aboriginal occupancy by these people extended well into California and can be described by an arc drawn from the Reno-Sparks area southeastwardly to Las Vegas. Although there were reasonably large groups in the Sierra Nevada foothills, most Paiute living in the desert formed small hunting bands which could subsist on game and plants. Plant knowledge of the desert was and continues to be extensive. Farming characterized all Southern Paiute groups.

Religious practices revolved around creation stories and healing ceremonies and had significant relationships to springs, hot water and unique geological places. Since the hunting bands were relatively small in population, there was great reliance on individual religious knowledge. The various bands of Paiute rarely gathered together, so apart from commonly shared creation stories, many religious beliefs and practices were band-specific and dealt with the landscape in which the particular group lived. Consequently identification of sacred sites that would have relevance to all Paiutes is almost impossible. Locations that might have great significance for one group would have little or no importance to another group depending on the frequency of use of a particular region.

In Churchill County, east of Reno, there is a reddish butte, now named Rattlesnake Butte, which was a traditional Paiute burial ground. Later it was the site of a battle between the Paiute and the Pit River Indians of California. The tradition suggests that it is a location which the people would not want disturbed or carelessly used. A valley in Eureka County is called Kobeh which means “face” in Paiute and refers to a tradition of ancient times, quite possibly involving a spiritual personality or creation legend. Exceedingly hot springs existed in the Carson City area prior to the coming of the Euroamericans. One spring, now called Steamboat Springs, was said to have had as many as seventy separate columns of steam coming from its vents and must have been an important healing center. There is a possibility that these locations have ceremonial linkage with locations within or near the Fallon Naval Air Station. Consultation with Paiute elders at Walker River, Fallon and Pyramid Lake would clarify this possibility.

The Fallon Naval Air Station has two sites on it that are important to the Northern Paiutes, particularly the people at Owens Valley. Lone Rock and Black Butte are healing and vision questing sites and attract traditional people from Walker, River, Pyramid Lake, and the Fallon Indian community itself. Legacy Project #479, which was funded in FY93, is in place and that project report will make more specific the nature of the religious importance of these two sites.

Clark County, which contains the city of Las Vegas and Nellis Air Force Base, has several locations important to the Southern Paiute. The most prominent is Charleston Peak, called Nevagantu by the people, which plays a prominent role in the creation stories of the groups of this area. The peak is also important to the Chemehuevi-Paiute who live south along the Colorado River in California on their own reservation and also live on the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation in Arizona. The peak is the northernmost mountain involved in their creation narrative and forms an important location marker that describes their sacred lands. The Newberry Mountains, located southeast of Las Vegas, have a group of peaks at their northern end designated as the Spirit Mountain. The tradition suggests that these mountains were the dwelling place of departed spirits of ancestral people. The location, therefore is to be held sacred and not disturbed.

Arrow Canyon in Clark County has sacred significance, but the reason for this has been clouded by Euroamerican interpretations of Southern Paiute stories. According to Euroamericans, the most common explanation involves a tradition about conflict between the Moapa Valley Paiute and Pahranagat Paiute. War parties of each group met at the canyon and, upon realizing that the ensuing battle would be bloody and costly, agreed to reduce the struggle to a contest of shooting arrows high into the canyon wall where there was a cleft formation. This incident was jointly celebrated each year thereafter until the groups were placed on the Moapa Paiute Indian reservation. This Euroamerican tradition hides an earlier story which must certainly go back to very ancient times and record some form of religious revelation. The Moapa and Pahranagat Paiutes were part of the same district and they have no contemporary stories about a feud associated with Arrow Canyon. This case points out the importance of consulting with Indian people rather than taking as face value published accounts of their sacred sites. There is a cultural linkage between these people, the Las Vegas Paiutes, the Pahrump Paiutes and the Chemehuevi Paiutes with cultural sites on Nellis Air Force Base.

Most plant gathering locations are held secret by the native people, usually women, who know the areas and plants. Southern Paiutes have gone on record about plant areas when locations are kept secret and the agencies agrees to protect plants (Stoffle, Halmo, Olmsted, Evans 1990; Stoffle, Halmo, Evans, Olmsted 1990; Stoffle, Evans, Halmo, Dufort, Fulfrost 1994). A few commonly known Paiute plant gathering sites exist elsewhere. In Lincoln County near the Utah border Toqupo Wash was a special location where both Paiute and Shoshone gathered the tuuko’api or black tobacco for ceremonies. Springs have special meaning for Southern Paiutes, being the focus of plant and animal life as well as having their own spirits. Protection of this type of location, if it continues to be used as a gathering site and ceremonial area, potentially could relieve Paiute people from harvesting this plant in other places that might involve use of military lands. It also should be recognized that the ceremonial meaning of plants often derives from where they are found, so it is not possible to know without consultation with Paiute religious leaders whether or not a plant from one area can substitute for the same kind of plant from another area.


Northern Desert Great Basin groups of this people lived in a similar manner to the Northern Paiute but many of their stories look toward the north and link with traditions already discussed in relation to sites in Idaho. Again there is extensive use of springs for the healing ceremonies and the use of particular mountains for vision quests and larger council gatherings. As might be expected, the small number of people in desert hunting bands produced religious knowledge specific to each band. The Shoshone were not keen about the spirits of the dead and generally avoided locations where they had experienced these spirits. The sites which will be discussed below have no immediate relevancy to DoD operations that can be determined. However, the possibility exists that religious traditions involving these important sites do relate to DoD-occupied lands in Southern Nevada. Should these relationships be discussed in consultation with tribal officials, this background information will assist DoD personnel in understanding the scope of Shoshone religious activities.

Near Elko we have a Jarbidge Canyon which was regarded by the Shoshone as a place to be feared and at times a place to receive offerings and sacrifices. Tso’avitsi, a mythical crater-dwelling giant, was said to have lived in this geological formation in the early days. He was cannibalistic and hunted people, carrying a basket on his back for his human harvest. Capturing several people he would return to his crater and consume them. These stories seem fanciful except that the tradition of cannibalistic giants is found over a surprisingly large geographical area and has resonance with stories of the northern Plains which feature giant human-eating monsters preying on the people. We may have here an echo of prehistoric conditions in the Great Basin area.

The Shoshone may have intruded into lands that were at first occupied by Paiutes, with the result that some locations, particularly hot springs or healing springs are shared by the two groups. Today the hot springs are primary candidates for experimental activities involving geothermal energy and consequently in the desert regions of California and Nevada there is the potential for conflict between traditional religious practitioners and research projects involving geothermal energy. The religious significance of a hot springs location is the presence of what these people call “doctor rocks,” which are specific sites used for healing ceremonies. Both Shoshone and Paiute are reluctant to disclose the existence of these rocks, their attitude being the same as northern Plains peoples with the writing rocks. Only an on-site discussion with local groups can resolve this problem.

Nevada’s military installations have a certain degree of secrecy and sensitivity which must be recognized. The Nevada Test Site has some sacred locations, the Hawthorne Army ammunition plant must have some sites that are important to the Northern Paiutes, the Yucca Mountain atomic dump site must surely have Western Shoshone sacred locations. The famous Area 51 already has a massive folklore among New Ager flying saucer buffs. But the state has a very good archaeology program and it is working with the Inter-tribal Council of Nevada to compile lists of all the important religious sites in the state. Five locations have been identified by that office as being sacred: Cave Rock near Lake Tahoe in Douglas County, Spirit Mountain in Clark County, Tosa Wikki Quarry near Battle Mountain in Elko County, and Pyramid and Walker Lakes.

New Mexico

Aboriginally a great many Indian nations (Ortiz 1979, 1983) lived in and used the lands of New Mexico (Figure 4.14). The state was occupied by several distinct bands of Apache, the most familiar of which are the Mescalero, Jicarilla, and Lipan. The eastern Navajo and the Pueblos, which had more than 125 villages at the time of European contact, have been permanent residents for thousands of years. The Comanche, Kiowa, Wichita (Bell et al 1974; Wedel and Wedel 1976), Cheyenne, Arapaho and Ute also spent considerable time in the state. Creation, emergence, and migration stories abound within these traditions.

Geologically, New Mexico includes the southern U.S. end of the Rocky Mountains, with spectacular mountains, much evidence of volcanism, and grassy high desert-like plains south of the mountains and east of the Rio Grande. This background information is important to DoD understanding because many traditions deal with volcanic activity and there are complex sets of relationships between and among the various mountains in the state. Judging from the ancient ruins and the amount of pottery shards to be found haphazardly in many areas of the state, the Rio Grande Valley must have been the site of human habitation from the very beginning of time.

Indeed, the Clovis site is accepted by orthodox scholars as one of the most important locations for North American and perhaps western hemisphere archaeology, being dated at approximately 11,200 before the present (Johnson 1991). Native peoples lived in the Rio Grande drainage from that time until the time of Spanish contact. Following Spanish conquest and settlement many pueblos were merged together as population decline occurred. Consequently some Indian nations have incorporated traditions brought by survivors and remnant families of former pueblos into their own traditions.

Today two Apache reservations are located within the state. The Jicarilla Apache have a reservation in the north, near Colorado, with headquarters at Dulce. The Mescalero Apache have a reservation in the south, near Texas, with headquarters at Mescalero.

Nineteen pueblo reservations exist from along the Rio Grande west to south of Gallup at Zuni. Some remnant mixed groups from former pueblos in southern New Mexico are now seeking Federal recognition.

The Navajo reservation is the largest reservation in the Lower 48 states and a portion of it, consisting primarily of allotted lands with some tribal lands, extends from Arizona into western New Mexico. Many New Mexico Navajo chapter communities that are part of the Navajo Nation are adjacent to the reservation in this area. Three isolated reservations at Ramah, Puertocito and Canoncito also belong to the Navajos.

Identification of some locations as sacred to a particular Indian nation, therefore, will not exclude that location from being used religiously by another Indian nation for similar or even entirely different ceremonies. It is the specific tribe’s historical religious experience that defines a location as sacred to the group.

In New Mexico we have a tremendous overlapping of distinct tribal religious traditions at most sacred sites; frequent multi-tribal use of springs and mountains, close proximity of shrines of different groups, and the transformation of ancient historical sites into places of contemporary religious reverence. The Indian nations of New Mexico are highly traditional and extremely secretive about their beliefs, practices, and places of ceremonial and ritual activity. A great deal of information is already written down and sealed in confidentiality, particularly among the Pueblos. Consequently in-depth information on some sites can only be obtained by arrangement with the Indian tribal government and the State of New Mexico, Office of Cultural Affairs, Historic Preservation Division, Santa Fe.

The theology of the New Mexico Indian nations is exceedingly complex and their historical roots must go back in some instances to the earliest prehistoric time periods. Consequently it is a good idea to try to clarify some of the terms that are used by the traditional people, particularly those involved with creation, emergence, and migration since they become rather technical terms when discussing the people of this state and confusion can lead to misunderstanding. While definitions of the kinds of sacred sites have already been discussed in Chapters One and Two, the New Mexico situation poses special problems in understanding. Creation stories, for example, frequently assume a pre-existing physical world, emergence stories may deal with multiple worlds, some physical and some not, and migration stories may refer to this earth or may combine several physical worlds.

Creation should be understood as referring to that act or state of awareness which people experienced or had knowledge of, that created the landscape around them. Some traditions speak of the existence of several worlds and creation, when placed in this context, most probably means the experiences and memories of small groups of survivors of a major geological catastrophe. Volcanic evidence of substantial geological disruptions is everywhere in the state and one can only guess what the area was like prior to the disruption.

Emergence is closely related to creation in the sense that the people come from another dimension, usually an underground world, and are led through underground passages into certain land formations in our present world. The Navajo, for example, speak of having been formerly in an underground world and the Hopi tell of a time when the surface of the earth was not suitable for life and they had to live with the ants underground.

Migration usually describes either a creation or an emergence somewhere else and, as part of the event, people receiving religious instruction to migrate across the land until they reach a certain previously described set of natural features which is designated as their home during this period of earth history. It is this religious pilgrimage that people feel gives them a superior title to those given by any earthly government. It should be noted that while many scholars view very ancient ruins as distinct from contemporary Indian nations, the Pueblos and Navajos use Anasazi and other sites for ceremonial pilgrimages and secret rituals indicating at least an emotional linkage with the remote past.


The most important Apache tribes are the Jicarilla (Gunerson 1974; Opler 1938; Tiller 1983) in the northern part of the state and the Mescalero (Sonnischen 1958) in the Sierra Blancas and surrounding lands. Remnants of the Chiracahua and Lipan bands of Apaches (Opler 1965) are found at Mescalero, at San Carlos, and at Fort Sill. San Carlos, Arizona, and Fort Sill, Oklahoma are not located in New Mexico but there are families from each of these areas who still visit the New Mexico area to use sacred sites in several locations.

Of the remnant groups, there are some individual Chiricahuas who continue a ceremonial life for small gatherings. The Jicarilla and Mescalero live approximately in the center of their original occupancy area. Consequently knowledge and use of sacred sites located in the area has a greater sense of immediacy for them.

The Mescalero Apache have lands within the Fort Bliss Military Reservation where there are four known sacred peaks and some additional sites presently kept secret by the people. The four known locations are Guadalupe Peak, Organ Mountain, Three Sisters and Oscura Peak. All indications are that these peaks are part of the ancient history of the people, places where ceremonies were revealed, and sites which require continual ceremonial caretaking. Great care must be taken in making contact with traditional Mescaleros. The tribe is split along conservative/progressive lines because of a desire by the tribal government to accept an atomic waste treatment project and this business is viewed as anathema by traditional people.

In Catron County in west central New Mexico there is a volcanic area that until recently contained sufficient heat to cause steam to rise after a slight rain. It is called Burning Mountain and appears to have had the same function as the hot springs near present day Truth or Consequences, which was used for healing purposes. South of the Mescalero Reservation in Otero County just north of Fort Bliss and east of White Sands are the Cornudas Mountains, a set of peaks that rise abruptly from a mesa to an elevation of approximately 7,000 feet.

About 35 miles southeast of Alamagordo, still in the Sacramento Mountains, is Grapevine Canyon which has pictographs of sotol, a desert plant used to make the mescal drink from which the Mescalero take their name. The pictographs are to be found at the entrance of a cave in the canyon and there are a sufficient number to suggest that Lipan Apache and perhaps even Comanche used this location for a variety of purposes. The specific sacred aspect of the site can be verified and explained by a traditional spiritual leader at Mescalero. Near the northwest corner of the White Sands Missile Range and some 15 miles west of Carrizozo is the Little Black Peak which is an extinct volcanic crater which produced a lava flow about 60 miles long and 4 miles wide. Like other volcanic features of New Mexico, it is entirely likely that the site is connected to migration stories or traditions involving monsters.

In Dona Ana County there is a location presently called Phillips’ Hole. It is a volcanic crater of comparable size to those in Catron County, but lacking the large lava flow field. It may have a connection with the crater discussed above. Along the Mexican border in neighboring Luna County is the peak called Tres Hermanas. This formation is distinct from the other Three Sisters located within the Fort Bliss area but must have ceremonial significance because of its command of the nearby landscape. Undoubtedly it was used by the Apache as a lookout in their wars with the Spanish, Mexicans, and Americans as its use would be essential to keep track of parties coming from El Paso.

Although the Jicarilla Apaches now live in north central New Mexico at their reservation at Dulce, they originally spent as much time in the high plains foothills area of the eastern slope of the Rockies as they did in the northern New Mexico mountains. Black Lake, in the southwestern corner of Colfax County in northern New Mexico, is probably a sacred location. Perceptions of the lake change as the distance from it varies. It looks black when viewed from a distance because of the reflection of the trees and dense vegetation which surround its shores. Approaching closely to the shoreline the lake is seen as being clear blue. These kinds of changes would have been understood as reflecting the power of the location and would almost certainly have fit into Apache understandings of mountains and lakes. Proximity to Taos Pueblo suggests that these people might also have a ceremonial tradition with respect to this place.

Three volcanic mountains certainly possess the necessary characteristics to be places of sacred ceremonial life in northern New Mexico and they are squarely within the occupancy area of the Jicarilla. Sierra Grande in Union County, the largest individual mountain in North America with a base measured in circumference at 40 miles is just east of the famous Capulin volcanic cone which is now a National Monument. Broke Off Mountain in Rio Arriba County has similar although quite diminished features but is also a volcanic cone, a volcanic stump in this instance. Since these sites are away from existing military lands, they are cited because they may form a triangulation of sacred sites, the lands within which may contain shrines and holy places sufficiently near military lands to be noted.

Colfax County, east of Taos, also contains Cuesta Del’Osha Peak on the slopes of which grow the osha plant which has a taste like celery and has great medicinal value. Jicarilla Apaches, Taos Pueblo, the old Pecos Pueblo whose former inhabitants now live at Jemez Pueblo, Utes and possibly Comanche, Cheyenne and Arapaho have used this site to gather medicinal herbs, most particularly osha. In San Juan and Rio Arriba counties there are several peaks which have a significance for the Jicarilla but since they are also important to the Navajo and Tewa-speaking Pueblos they will be discussed below.


This tribe’s (Foster 1991; Richardson 1933) far-reaching spiritual roots extend far back into prehistory. The Comanche were once a part of the Shoshone people, most probably the largest of the eastern division of that widespread nation. Tradition says they split because of a serious epidemic and moved southwards along the foothills of the Rockies until they came to the western Oklahoma grasslands. Until the 1870s the Comanche played a critical role in the history of eastern and central New Mexico. Attracted to the Rio Grande settlements by the affluence produced by the introduction of Spanish manufacturing crafts, the Comanche made frequent forays into the Rio Grande Valley and were eventually the cause of the Rio Grande pueblos uniting with Spanish military posts for protection of their villages. In 1785 the Spanish made peace with the Comanches in a series of treaties that affected the Spanish frontier from quite near the Mississippi River in Louisiana to the western reaches of present day New Mexico.

Eastern New Mexico was the scene of frequent Comanche invasions, often simply a passageway to the richer towns in Sonora, Durango, and Nueva Vizcara in Mexico. Comanches also conducted punitive raids against the Lipan and Mescalero Apache under the terms of their treaty with the Spanish, venturing as far as northern Arizona to intimidate recalcitrant Navajos, and virtually ravaging the northern pueblos until trading agreements were established. Locations in the eastern plains of New Mexico, therefore, have a strong relationship to the Comanche and are often shared locations with the Chiracahua whose bands also traveled across these desert-like plains. Sacred sites of importance to the Comanche would have a certain historical flavor because of the sporadic nature of their occupation of the eastern plains. Traditional people today would probably remember locations where ceremonies were performed and regard these sites as sacred. They would not be expected to fall within the original creation-migration traditions, however, which seem to originate in the Idaho-Oregon area.

In Colfax County, west of Raton, there is a rock called the Buffalo Head which does in fact resemble a buffalo head. Since the Plains Indians saw this animal as a brother, a representative of Mother Earth, and the chief personification of the feminine, this location was used for Sacred dances by many of the Plains tribes, particularly the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa and Comanche. Near Fort Sumner in Baca County is a large cave of gypsum, rock which has many passageways, some leading back as far as 500 feet from the entrance. Today it is known as Diamond Cave. It has historical/ religious importance for some groups of Comanches who once used it. In Roosevelt County, southeast of De Baca, stands Eagle Hill, a high chalk hill which was the roosting place for many eagles until historical times. The Comanche and probably Chiracahua Apache gathered their eagle feathers at this location. Ceremonies would be required of both groups when dealing with this bird.

Tucumcari Mountain, near the present day city of the same name, was called Cuchtonaro (Comanche kutsinaro’i “she will put it on the fire to cook”). One tradition explains this name as indicating that the mountain was used for signal fires for gathering together Comanche war parties for raids on Rio Grande settlements. Most probably the Comanche oral tradition has a better explanation that goes such further back in Comanche history. In Lea County there used to be a location called Monument Springs which consisted of a 45-foot high caliche rock marker that was visible for 35 miles and indicated where a spring existed. The origin of this tradition is undoubtedly from the Comanches and most probably marked a sacred spring where healing ceremonies took place.

Most of the Comanche sites are some distance from existing military lands but a number of them must be within air space used by the military and therefore a possible conflict regarding flyovers may exist. The Comanche intrusions into New Mexico were quite often for the purpose of raiding Indian tribes and Spanish settlers living much farther south in northern Mexico. Habitual resting locations were the scene of consolidation of forces but would also involve ceremonial preparation for the task ahead and condolence rituals for losses suffered on these ventures. Consequently, we can expect to find some kinds of Comanche burials along a route from these locations toward Mexico and further knowledge of these locations presently possessed by traditional Comanches will quite possibly point to other sacred locations within either the Fort Bliss or White Sands military installations.


Navajo and Pueblo sacred sites are quite numerous in the New Mexico area. Sometimes they are in close proximity to each other and are used by either group without conflict. The New Mexico Archaeology Records Management System (ARNS) has close to one million separate locations identified; the majority of these places have cultural significance and a large percentage are burials and ruins. Important sacred locations are best identified through tribal offices. Contact with the Navajo Nation offices in Window Rock would enable base commanders to obtain the tribal position on sacred sites as well as the name of local chapter representatives who would be concerned with site protection. In the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Fort Wingate to White Sands Missile Range missile shots (USSSDC 1994), the Navajo expressed concern that flying missiles might pierce the “dome of the spirit” which is the air space represented by visualizing a dome placed over the area enclosed by the four sacred Navajo mountains. Such an intrusion would disrupt the spiritual harmony of the lands within the four sacred mountains and perhaps effect the efficacy of ceremonies conducted within the reservation or at locations adjacent to the Navajo communities.

Cabezon Peak, a giant volcanic plug rising 2,200 feet above the surrounding plain some 40 miles west of Albuquerque, is particularly sacred to the Navajos since it figures prominently in their prehistoric traditions. The Navajos call the site Tsézhiih Deezlí which means “Black Rock”; it is believed to be the head of a giant killed by the Twin War Gods. Although not within a military land area, the problem here would be fly-overs from the Kirtland Air Force Base during religious ceremonies.

Other mountains of immediate religious significance to the Navajo are El Huerfano (the Orphan) in San Juan County. The Navajo name for this mountain is Dzit Ná’ooditii and it rises from a flat plain by itself, creating a sense of awe and power. Crownpoint in McKinley County is a crown-shaped butte on the edge of a plain and has religious significance. Mount Taylor in Valencia is called by the Navajo Tsoodzit (big, tall mountain). Its ceremonial name is Doott’izhii Dzit (turquoise mountain) and it is one of the mountains marking out the boundary of Navajo ethnic territory. It has creation and emergence connotations. Shiprock, in San Juan County, is called by the Navajo Tsé Bit’a’í (the rock with wings).

The Navajo (Kluckhohn and Leighton 1946), like their Athabascan-speaking relatives the Apache, see superior power that exists in and of itself in locations. Non-Indian scholars have implied the presence of “spirits” and “gods” but this terminology is not really applicable to the Navajo conceptions and understanding. Smaller buttes, springs, and specific locations where plants can be harvested have power to affect the humans who interact with them. Consequently most of the sacred sites of the Navajo are those locations where local medicine people have discerned the existence of power and represent a complex of location relationships, not solitary sites.


Much work has been done by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to identify sacred sites and seal in confidence information about locations important to Pueblo people (Dozier 1970; Ortiz 1979). The task of recording known sites is almost completed and consequently the best plan of action is for a military installation to contact each Pueblo individually and get Indian permission to contact the SHPO to obtain more specific information. The Pueblos present a unique geographic situation because most live close to each other and have overlapping concerns. The Hopi (in Arizona), Zuni, Acoma and Laguna pueblos are in the west, and the remainder of the Pueblos live in the Rio Grande Valley from Taos south to Albuquerque. For the Pueblos people living along the Rio Grande, there is a substantial overlapping and interconnection of religious traditions and ceremonies. In practical terms this means that almost every location identified as a sacred site has multiple Pueblo interests.

The Pueblos, perhaps more than any other Indian group, have a tradition of visiting remote sacred sites in annual and specific ceremonial times. Pilgrimages may re-enact ancient stories, the emergence from other worlds, or serve the purpose of maintaining the linkage between and among sacred sites so as to preserve their power. Sacred sites do not exist in isolation; each site points to or sustains other locations and exists within a network or complex of sites. The key to understanding the complex of sacred sites is the province of spiritual authorities of the Pueblos. Nevertheless, DoD personnel should get the flavor of this complexity from the discussion of known sites, most of which are affected by flyovers and some of which are located within the boundaries of present military lands. The linkage of sacred sites in the Rio Grande Valley is such that ceremonial activities and pilgrimages may need to be performed within military locations.

Buckman Mesa near Santa Fe is a large lava-topped mesa on the south side of the Rio Grande near San Ildefonso Pueblo. According to the legends of this Pueblo the hole in the top of the Mesa is one of four places from which fire and smoke came in ancient times. It therefore has connections with other worlds. A related peak is called Gigantes and is sacred because of its relationship to Tsaveyo, one of the most famous giants of ancient times.

Coyote Springs in Bernalillo County was used as a medicinal and healing location because of its supply of carbonated water. It is presently within the Sandia Military Reservation. Jicarita Mountain in Mora County on the eastern slope of the mountains is sacred to the Picuris Pueblo and has a shrine at its crest which is shaped like a large inverted basket. The lava beds extending westward from McCartys to Grants contain scores of extinct volcanoes, and many hollow lava tubes, and are comparatively recent in origin. Laguna and Acoma people use many sites in this general region as ceremonial locations and the Laguna story of the “Year of the Fire” may commemorate this volcanic outpouring.

Manby Hot Springs located twelve miles northwest of Taos is a group of medicinal springs used by many of the Pueblos. Ojo Caliente in Rio Arriba County near Taos is regarded as the dwelling place of the powers that help the northern Pueblos. The springs were the opening or portal between this world and the world below, and hence have an “emergence” characteristic. The grandmother of Poseyemo, a Tewa hero, is said to still live in one of the springs. San Antonio Mountain marks the boundary of the Tewa-speaking Indian world and has living relationship with other mountains in the south, east and west. San Miguel Mountain west of Las Vegas was believed to have been carved by erosional forces into a face which represents the personification of the creative power. Within the Pueblo tradition all mountains have the capability to project the face of the power that made them but only here is the likeness clear enough for people to understand.

The number of sacred sites in the Albuquerque area is substantial. Specific Pueblos have their shrines and some locations are sacred to a number of Pueblos and mark out creation, emergence and migration locales. Albuquerque also has two major military installations: Kirtland Air Force Base and the Sandia Military Reservation. The Sandia Mountains are the southern boundary of the Pueblo lands. The majority of ceremonial activities will be north and west of the mountains. Some gathering of plants and medicines will be done in the Sandia Mountains adjacent to the military reservations. Consultation with the State Archaeologist and the All Pueblo Council will enable base commanders to make the proper contacts within the individual Pueblos.


Historically this state (Figure 4.15) was to be the location of the surviving members of the Indian nations of the United States (Wright 1986; Paredes 1992; Williams 1979; Debo 1962). In the eastern part of the state and near Oklahoma city are remnants of the tribes who once lived in the eastern United States and were removed in the 1820 to 1840s. A good many of these peoples, deprived of the sacred landscape of their homelands, have preserved religious and political societies but seem to have lost the ceremonies and traditions which linked them to ancestral lands. Much knowledge still remains in some tribes.

The Cherokee (Royce 1887; Woodward 1963), for example, continue to maintain a ceremonial sense of the old homeland and the Kentooah Band of the Cherokees in the Sequoyah v.Tennessee Valley Authority case sued in the late 1970s to halt construction of the Tellies Dam and inundation of the Little Tennessee River. Muskogee/Creek (Green 1979), Yuchi (Speck 1979), and Choctaw (Debo 1961; Kidwell and Roberts 1980) traditional people continue to visit traditional religious sites east of the Mississippi River.

The aboriginal connection with particular mountains and rivers east of the Mississippi has been severed, but healing ceremonies and ceremonies involved in prophecy and naming still exist among the tribes removed to Oklahoma. The military presence in eastern Oklahoma, represented primarily by the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant southwest of that city, and groups of traditional Indian people may want access to military graveyards for memorial and condolence purposes. In general these activities would probably reflect more contemporary mixtures of Christian prayers and hymns and traditional blessings.

In western Oklahoma are several locations sacred to the tribes who once roamed the area. Rainy Mountain, for example, is sacred to the Kiowa and remains a ceremonial location. But like western Kansas, this region was more of a mutually shared hunting area and less of a permanent occupancy location. Most of the religious ceremonies that would involve military lands in this area would be commemorative, a contemporary mixture of Christian and traditional rites of mourning, memorial, blessing and thanksgiving.

Fort Sill, the final living place of the remnants of the Chiracahua Apache, where Geronimo died, has a number of sites that were used by these Apache people during their time as prisoners of war. Medicine Bluff and Medicine Bluff Creek were used by the Apache for various ceremonial purposes during the last century and are frequently used today by traditional Kiowa. They are now on listed the National Register of Historic Places.


Oregon (Figure 4.16) has a statewide survey of archaeology sites, including many possible sacred sites; locational and other information on the archaeology sites is available from the Oregon State Historic preservation Office on a need to know basis. Federally recognized tribes in Oregon (Buan and Lewis 1992) are the Grand Ronde, Cow Creek, Klamath, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Siletz, Lower Umpqua, Coos Bay, and Burns Paiute. There are also two traditional fishing villages on the Columbia River, Chetco and Celilo. Indian people with ancestral ties to the Clatsop and Chinook tribes also live in Oregon and are in the process of seeking Federal acknowledgment. Tribal representatives can be contacted through the tribal government of the respective reservations or, in the case of traditional villages, through the SHPO. We have identified a number of Indian sacred sites but they are generally far from existing military lands and in some cases overgrown by urban settlements.

The major Cascade peaks, Crater Lake, Three Sisters and Mount Hood, and the Columbia River locations such as The Dalles, Cascades, and Bridge of the Gods form a geographical/geological network of sacred locations for the tribes of this state. There may well be sites on or near military lands that are featured in a creation or migration tradition centering around one of these major landmarks.

In eastern Oregon the Boardman Bombing Range and the Umatilla Army Depot have sites within their borders that were used as vision quest and healing locations by the Warm Springs and Umatilla tribes. While there are few identified creation sites in eastern Oregon, the ceremonial sites are more important for these people because of the tendency within the region to deal with psychological soul loss and illness as manifesting underlying psychic disorder. The DoD should initiate negotiations with the Umatilla and Warm Springs tribal governments as a way of dealing with the sacred site problem in this state.


Once a republic which signed treaties with both indigenous and later colonizing tribes (Taite 1986; Salinas 1990; Hester 1991), by the end of the 1840s Texas (Figure 4.17) had pretty much been cleared of Indian tribes with the exception of the panhandle where the Kiowa and Comanche still maintained a strong presence. The Lipan Apache who once controlled much of west Texas east of El Paso were substantially reduced by incessant warfare with the Spanish, Mexicans, and Comanche by the time of American settlement in the area. The Caddoan villages which once controlled large areas in eastern Texas were also substantially reduced prior to American intrusion, and the Gulf tribes, such as the Karankawa, were virtually extinct shortly after American settlement and the Texas war for independence.

Traces of former Indian occupation can be seen in various parts of Texas, particularly in the western regions where the Comanche and Kiowa lived until the 1870s. A Medicine Wheel has been identified at Fort Hood (see Chapter Seven) and ceremonies were held, led by William Tall Bull, a northern Cheyenne spiritual leader, to bless and renew the site. Three Legacy projects have been funded involving Fort Hood. In 1991 Legacy Project #17 was funded and in 1992 Legacy Projects #304 and #522 were also funded. The Fort Hood experience is a good model to be used by other military installations in dealing with traditional Indian people.

Painted Bluff in Edwards County and Painted Rock in Concho County have an outstanding number of pictographs and rock paintings. Paint Rock has more than 1,500 paintings scattered along the bluff of the Concho River for more than half a mile. The Painted Bluff site has pictographs along the Cedar Creek fork of the Nueces River.

In Texas the vast majority of the contacts between traditional Native religious practitioners and the military will be occasions similar to the Fort Hood experience. Fort Bliss near El Paso may have requests from the Mescalero Apache traditional people or the people from the Tigua settlement of Isleta del Sur seeking access to Guadalupe Peak and surrounding areas for ceremonial purposed or gathering of medicinal and ceremonial plants.


This state (Figure 4.18) has Great Basin desert and high plateau geological features with ancient salt flats from Pleistocene Lake Bonneville, extensive canyons and extremely rugged mountains with a few river valleys that run through the state. The land is perceived by many observers as inhospitable and as encouraging settlement by small groups in a manner similar to Nevada and southern Idaho. Traditionally Gosiutes (whose language is extremely similar to Shoshone; see Thomas, Pendleton, and Cappanari 1986), Utes (Conetah 1982; Smith 1974), and Southern Paiutes (Euler 1973; Holt 1992) lived in riverine oases and used upland natural resources. Gosiute people need access to the restricted testing areas such as Wendover, Deseret, Dugway and Hill Air Force Range west of Great Salt lake, and a major problem is of military planes in areas of concentrated sacred sites in southeastern Utah.

The Uintah and Ouray Reservation in the northeast corner of Utah is occupied by indigenous Ute bands as well as Ute bands removed from Colorado in the 1880s. In the southeast corner of Utah is a small portion of the Navajo reservation, which has its major land holdings in Arizona. In the southwest corner of Utah is the Shivwits Paiute reservation near St. George, and to the north near Cedar City is the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah which is a composite tribe containing five formerly terminated Paiute tribes including the Shivwits. Traditionally other Indian groups such as the Hopi have come to Southern Utah. The out-of-state eastern Shoshone and Bannock also have ties to northern portions of Utah.

San Juan County, which covers the very southeastern tip of the state, has a multitude of sacred sites. It is currently used for ceremonial places by the Navajo and Paiute, and occasionally by the Hopi and the Southern Ute, the most famous sacred sites being within Natural Bridge National Park. Other locations in the immediate vicinity include: Aztec Butte which contains ancient ruins and is compared to the Hopi ancestral traditions, Castle Creek Ruins which are near Green Water Spring and have the same claim to antiquity, Nasja Mesa which has the owl spirit and derives its name from a corruption of the Navajo word for this bird (Navajo né’éshjaa’ ‘owl’), and of course the Rainbow Bridge itself which was the subject of a religious freedom lawsuit.

Of great importance in this part of Utah is a place called Navajo Mountain in English and Kaivayaxarere in the Southern Paiute language. The aboriginal inhabitants of this area were Southern Paiutes. Today, the San Juan Southern Paiute tribe has members residing at Navajo Mountain jointly residing with the Navajo people. There are both Paiute and Navajo beliefs about this mountain. Southern Paiute beliefs are summarized in Bunte and Franklin (1987).

According to Navajo beliefs this mountain is the first earth home of the human beings. Here we have a unique version of an emergence story in that instead of coming from the underground the first couple arrive from the tip of a rainbow. Navajo Mountain is the center of a religious geography which extends in every direction. It has relationships with other mountains great distances away and consequently may enter into discussion regarding the sanctity of other locations near military installations.

The Oquirrh Mountains in Tooele County near Salt Lake have a number of locations which have traditionally been used by the Gosiute people for religious ceremonies. Efforts to translate the name of these mountains have produced such designations as “wooded” mountain, “cave” mountains, “west” mountain, and “shining” mountain. This is probably a ceremonial complex involving several locations rather than bad linguistics. Some locations in the Oquirrh Mountains may point toward desert springs locations, and others may be part of religious pilgrimages. Consultation with traditional Gosiute people will resolve the confusion.

Granite Mountain or Dugway Mountain has special religious significance for the Gosiute people. It lies midway between Skull Valley and the Goshute Reservations and consequently is important to both groups. Gosiute religious traditions do not radically differ from those of the desert Paiute and Shoshone and consequently Granite Mountain is probably a sacredpower site similar to what we see identified in Nevada.

In general, the chances of conflict between military installations in Utah and traditional practitioners of tribal religions are not great and at most may involve granting access to sacred springs in fringe areas of some of the proving grounds. The multitude of sacred sites in southern Utah, and these locations are clustered in groups of peaks and mesas across the entire length of the state, are cited because they form geographical connections to traditions about the ancient days, creation and migration accounts, and may be mentioned by traditional people in proving the sacredness of other locations which they have kept secret until now.


The SHPO cultural resource inventory of the State of Washington (Figure 4.19) includes sacred sites described under a general category of “cultural treasures.” Each of the Federally recognized tribes in the state (Gibbs 1978; Interior Salish and Western Washington Tribes 1974), as well as one petitioning for Federal recognition, has its own Traditional Cultural Properties committee which works with the state and Federal agencies to provide documentation on the sites which it designates as having cultural significance. The basic approach taken by the State Archaeologist is to refer inquiries to individual tribal committees.

The major mountains and volcanoes of the state, Mt. St. Helens, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Three Sisters, and the Olympic peninsula peaks are related in religious tradition to tribes on both sides of the Cascades although the particular stories may differ considerably. It is theoretically possible to correlate all these stories and project an approximate time sequence in which the state was settled although that task has never been attempted. It should not be surprising, then, to learn that the Yakamas who live east of the mountains also have sacred sites within the Fort Lewis military lands which are west of the mountains. Other tribes have widely scattered sites like the Yakama. In the state overall there is considerable overlap in some areas, particularly river banks and berry patches which are used by several groups.

The Naval Underwater Warfare Engineering Station at Keyport has a Legacy Project (#39), funded in 1991 and 1992, which is now classifying its data. Locations here would be important to the tribes and villages of the inland sound near Bremerton. Fort Lewis has vision quest and burial sites important to the Nisqually, Yakama, and Wanapum. The Puyallup, Squaxin, Dwamish and other tribes of the southern Puget Sound area also have some traditional cultural sites in the Fort Lewis and adjacent prairie areas. Two major military installations in eastern Washington are Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane and the Yakama Firing Range east of Yakima.

In addition to the Cascade mountains, Rainier Mountain inside the Hanford Department of Energy Site is sacred to the eastern tribes. Steptoe Butte marks the site where the Yakamas survived the scablands flood (Allen, Burns, and Sargent 1986), and Tominin Rock is regarded as having religious significance. The Columbia River is under U.S. Coast Guard jurisdiction and it may be that its responsibilities will supersede those of the military with respect to locations along the river.

The tribes of Washington state have a reputation of taking care of business and being on top of developments in fields which interest or affect them. They have led the way in devising compacts for state-tribe relations (see Appendix O) and consequently the DoD should seriously consider initiating working agreements wherever possible to protect sacred sites on or adjacent to their installations.


Wyoming (Figure 4.20) has certain characteristics like western Kansas and Oklahoma in that it was occupied by numerous Indian groups the majority of whom used the lands for hunting and warfare rather than permanent occupation. The Crow, Shoshone, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Comanche, Sioux, and Pawnee claim certain locations as sites of religious significance. Some traditions even suggest that the Blackfeet and some Salish bands occasionally traveled into the eastern Wyoming area on hunting and war forays. The Medicine Wheel at Powell is claimed by a large number of tribes probably because it is the most prominent of these kinds of constructions and because it apparently has connections with a great number of lesser sites scattered across the Wyoming-Montana-Nebraska-Dakotas region.

The northern slopes of the Rockies in Colorado and the Laramie Mountains in Wyoming were used extensively by the Northern Arapaho for vision quests and medicinal gatherings. The Pawnee and Osage also had seasonal locations which they used for hunting, refurnishing tipi poles, and gathering medicinal plants. By and large, however, these sites are not often used today. On the western side of the Black Hills, in Wyoming, are numerous locations sacred to the Sioux nation including the “Devil’s Tower” which is called “Bear’s Lodge” by these people. A number of sites extending south along the western side of the Black Hills almost to Laramie were used by the Sioux for summer ceremonial activities devoted to the buffalo. Some picture rocks also exist in this area, although it is not known whether they are used today.

The Warren Air Force Base at Cheyenne is the only major military installation in the state that would have a bearing of sacred sites. Some burial ceremonies have been held when human remains were uncovered, with some spiritual leaders coming from the Sioux reservations in South Dakota to perform them. The interest of the Arapaho in some of the lands is beginning to be expressed so that there may be an opportunity to meet some Northern Plains spiritual leaders and establish a liaison with them. Some pictographs may be within the boundaries of the base but since there is some discussion on how the tribes who used this area treated pictographs, we cannot say with any certainty that they represent sacred sites or even that they represent the presence of the contemporary tribes who would be contacted about the matter. Like a number of other military installations, we can anticipate the uncovering of burial sites which might need ceremonial re-internment.

Shoshone traditions are among the oldest in Native North America. Ella Clark’s (1966) collection Indian Legends of the Northern Rockies contains several accounts of Shoshone occupation of the Big Horn basin at a very early geological time when it was an inland sea. New interdisciplinary work in geomythology argues that this tradition may be a preservation eye-witness account of the origin of the Yellowstone River.


There appear to be few places in the western United States where military installations have sites that are sacred to Indian tribes. In New Mexico, California, Washington and Idaho problems exist but are not critical. Various Legacy programs have made it possible for traditional Indian spiritual leaders and tribal governments to sit down and discuss how to work together. For most of the locations that have been listed above, the problem of flyovers by military aircraft would seem to be most common.

State historical and cultural agencies, inspired by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and other Federal laws, have done a lot of work to compile inventories of the various locations which tribes wish to protect. When we came across state agencies that had already consulted with the tribes and invoked confidentiality, we did not contact the tribe with yet another request that they share their information. Too many people are already attempting to gain access to confidential information and we did not want to provoke an incident that might reflect badly on the DoD.

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Since our original intent in this study was to locate specific sites which might have the potential for future conflict of a religious nature, our identifications are sufficient to orient base commanders as to the general background of the religious site. The study was originally to have been in two small parts: preliminary identification of areas that were of concern and small focus groups composed of military personnel and tribal officials who could begin discussions on establishing a working relationship with tribal governments. When the second step of the project was not funded, we were simply left with the general description of those places which are or will be important and of religious concern to the traditional spiritual leaders.

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