Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District spoke on the House floor yesterday to offer the Democratic Motion to Recommit to H.R. 538, the Native American Energy Act. Luján’s amendment, which was defeated by House Republicans, protects tribal sacred sites across America. Below are his remarks.
“Mr. Speaker, this is the final amendment to the bill which will not kill the bill or send it back to committee. If adopted, the bill will immediately proceed to final passage as amended.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to offer an amendment to protect sacred sites across America. This issue is not a new one. We’ve been part of many debates here on the floor and in committee on this important issue.
This is amendment is straightforward. It reads: ‘Nothing in this Act shall contravene the authority of the President to avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of any site, identified as sacred by virtue of established religious significance to, or ceremonial use by, an Indian religion, under Executive Order 13007.’
“Mr. Speaker, just as we come from different faiths, we all have respect for one another. Just as we worship in different places like churches or temples, so to should we have respect for these sacred places. Just as we would honor the sanctity of where our loved ones have been laid to rest, so to should we honor the sanctity of tribal sacred sites.
“Sacred sites are an essential part of the culture and heritage of tribal communities and the degradation of these sites means a loss of identity, as well as disrespect for the faith and religion, the culture and the history of our tribal brothers and sisters who are connected to these lands.
“Sacred sites should not be desecrated. They should be protected. And I know it’s a sentiment that many of us in this Congress share. Protecting sacred sites is the right thing to do and I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting this very important amendment.”