Sacred Sites and their #Indigenous Guardians

(The Gaia Foundation)

Over the last five years or so, I have become more aware of sacred sites both locally and abroad.  In an effort to understand my experiences at sacred sites, I have looked for information about the native cultures that lived at those sacred sites.

For example, when I went to Peru and visited Machu Picchu, I was enveloped in the most wonderful energy, but noticed that the energy improved as one climbed higher in altitude.  However, even mountains as powerful as they are, have to be honored from the work of the shaman, and by giving offerings and performing ceremony, the mountain spirits, and their energy are transformed.   “The wellbeing of huacas [quechua word for sacred] depends on the constant flow of offerings from the living to deceased ancestors, and the spiritual domain as a form of reciprocity.” (Staller, 2008, p.276)

Here in Florida, the mounds here as well as throughout the mound culture in the rest of the US, are places of great power and complex energy.  The complexity is most likely a result of years of environmental degradation and disrespect for these special places.  Because there is a highly elevated energy associated with power places or sacred sites, when the land they are on is disrespected or degraded, the energy becomes more turbulent and sometimes very unhappy.  “Sacred sites are living places. They have their own feelings like humans.  And just like humans, they can be happy or sad” (Sabella Kaguna, Custodian, Tharaka, Kenya)

Also in Florida, it is the Gulf of Mexico that is a very powerful nature force instead of mountains.   It is the Gulf of Mexico, the palm trees, plants, minerals and animals among many other things to whom we can offer our thanks.  In historical context, the Seminoles in Florida had core beliefs of giving thanks to the land and having a deep connection with the land as if it is one’s mother.  “Traditional Seminoles consider their environment a sacred source of life, and they themselves believe they are its guardians.” (Caufield, Catherine, “Selling a Piece of Your Mother”, 1998)

As I continue to learn more about sacred sites, I hope to integrate the same beliefs of reciprocity to the land as the native cultures who lived here before us.

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What is the tourism industry doing to protect the environment?

 

View from the Top of Cape May Lighthouse
Cape May, NJ

On Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014, the Keystone XL pipeline bill was defeated by a narrow margin.  This is a victory for now but it won’t stop the oil industry from funneling millions of dollars in support of legislation that allows fracking and pollution to destroy the land, air and water.

What is the tourism industry doing to block legislation that promotes the destruction of the environment?  Not much on a large scale.  There has been some efforts by the National Parks Conservation Association to protect public lands from fracking, but we know that it takes big money to influence legislation, and it also doesn’t help that some environmental groups gave almost a million dollars in support of Keystone XL.  In addition, various oil companies spend a lot more than a million dollars to influence legislation in their favor.

What does this have to do with tourism?  To put it in business terms, the environment is the tourism industry’s “product.”  Let’s take the product of the Gulf of Mexico, for example.  Wildlife Tourism in the Gulf of Mexico generates $19.4 billion in spending— and that’s just wildlife tourism, then one would assume the tourism industry would want to protect its investment.  It is for this reason that I wish there was a large scale effort on behalf of the tourism industry to combat every single legislation that is a threat to the environment.

I don’t personally view the environment as a “tourism product”, except within the context of this article.  From a business perspective, it’s insane to let national wonders such as Grand Canyon, Glacier National Park, or the entire Gulf of Mexico to be destroyed by the effects of fracking or other environmentally destructive policies.

How many people are going to want to visit the Florida beaches if the water is contaminated from fracking?  I don’t think people will want to wear gas masks on the beach.

Yes, there are many organizations that do excellent work to preserve protected places which benefits the tourism industry.  However, I have yet to see a large scale effort on behalf of the tourism industry to protect its “product”– the environment.