Claims as to the sacredness of lands, or features of lands, as well as of objects, are increasingly part of the discourse in environmental struggles. These claims are frequently advanced by American Indian people, and by groups working in concert with American Indian people, but they are also invoked by other people and groups seeking to preserve or protect some specific site or set of environmental values. Claims as to the sacredness or spiritual significance of sites are also resisted, as is the legitimacy of invoking sacredness as a consideration in environmental decision making. These types of conflicts have important features in common including some very elastic meanings as to sacredness, and some specific constitutional restrictions on the use of criteria of sacredness as a basis in decision making. But sacredness as a decision making criterion keeps getting invoked through the NEPA process (the requirement that environmental impact statements be part of environmental decision making) and through other complicated and fairly obscure legal requirements. The consequences of claims as to sacredness are quite unclear, but seem to represent a source of significant power for some native people on issues involving resources. This paper considers the emerging experiences with invoking sacred claims as part of environmental disputes. It considers some ongoing struggles, with one particular focus on a highly contested site in Georgia, where Creek Indians and some environmentalists are trying to resist the construction of a highway across an archeological and environmental site known as the Ocmulgee Oldfields.
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