Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM


SEMKEN, Steven, School of Earth and Space Exploration and Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University, PO Box 871404, Tempe, AZ 85287-1404,

Places of geologic significance, such as identified or proposed geologic heritage sites, will typically hold different meanings and engender a range of affective attachments among diverse people. In particular, many iconic geologic features, deposits, landforms, and landscapes in the United States are considered to be sacred places by one or more indigenous Native American or historically inhabitant (e.g., Hispanic/Latino) groups. These places are important if not indispensable to the cultural identity and cultural sustainability of these communities. Many sacred places now exist outside the modern boundaries of legally recognized Native American lands, yet Natives have not forgotten them or culturally abandoned them.

Sacredness implies enduring personal, familial, or ceremonial relationships to the land, typically encoded in oral (and sometimes graphic or written) stories and histories. To indigenous peoples, a sacred place is not necessarily a wholly prohibited or private place, but one that should be given respect, reverence, and protection; and its access and use should not conflict with traditional uses.

The sense of place, a theoretically robust and increasingly well-studied construct that incorporates meanings and attachments affixed to any given place, is one way of operationalizing the human connection to Earth. Sense of place can be studied, characterized, measured, and assessed; making it potentially very useful in defining, establishing, maintaining, and evaluating geologic heritage sites (particularly sacred sites) in the USA and anywhere else in the world.