Western Boot Camp on Environmental Law® Conversations About Native American Sacred Spaces Convening

April 6, 2023

The Nineteenth Annual Western Boot Camp features a new partnership between the Native American Rights Fund’s (NARF) Sacred Places project and the Environmental Law Institute. Sacred Places Protection: Fulfilling U.S. Religious Freedom Promises to Native Peoples is a NARF collaboration with the Morning Star Institute seeking to strengthen protections for Native Peoples’ Sacred Places in the United States by putting Indigenous knowledge bearers, Native intellectual leaders, and cultural rights specialists in positions to be heard and recognized as the subject scholars and authorities. It also seeks to engage with professionals and scholars across fields to achieve common language, understanding, and approach to bolstering Native assertions, exercises, and defenses of sacred lands, waters, and place-based ceremonies.

Native thought leaders and culture bearers will gather with a small group of Western Boot Camp attendees, building key new relationships on the shared foundation of Native American land uses and stewardship practices and environmental protection aims. Participating attorneys will gain a deeper understanding of how Native worldviews approach the environment and learn how certain pressure points present in modern environmental law can prove counterproductive to protecting critical Native interests in access to and protection of Sacred Places. Participating Native experts will gain access to environmental attorneys who can, with newfound understandings, more effectively advance legal protections and access to Sacred Places.

The event will be highly participatory, and an advance agenda will not be developed. The focus will be influenced by the participants themselves and building connections for the future will also be a goal.

Logistical Details

  • Location: 4 Embarcadero Center, Suite 3500, San Francisco, CA, 94111 (only to be held in person; no virtual option)
  • Time: 8:30 am to 4 pm PT, including breakfast at 8:30 am and working lunch at 12 pm
  • There will be no CLE offered for this activity.
  • Space is limited, so please RSVP for the event only if you are an environmental attorney and if you intend on attending the full program in person. Please also indicate any dietary needs via the registration page.

Sacred Places Background

Project Leadership:

  • Brett Lee Shelton (Staff Attorney, NARF)
  • Suzan Shown Harjo (Executive Director, Morning Star Institute)
  • Advisory Circle comprising expert tribal practitioners across Indian Country

Project Goals:

  • In-person and virtual convenings between Native experts, practitioners, and non-Native thought leaders
  • Sponsoring and preparing written materials and new scholarship, including academic papers, best practices, model consent agreements, and policy language
  • Providing professional development activities and programs to help targeted professional communities better understand the issues

Through the networks connected through the project and with the right alignment of political forces, enhanced protection may ultimately be realized through new statutory or administrative measures, as well as high profile judicial breakthroughs. However, enhanced protections for sacred places are most likely to take shape on the ground, in administrative decisions involving management of specific public lands, and particularly through the support of consent agreements, co-stewardship agreements, and like instruments and practices that enact the consent standard and honor inherent sovereignty, treaty rights, and Indigenous political, cultural, and religious self-determination.

Register Now for the Sacred Spaces Event