Clinton's sacred site executive order applies to all "federal lands" and to all "recognized" Indian tribes. A "sacred site" is defined as "any specific, discrete, narrowly delineated location of Federal land that is identified by an Indian tribe, or Indian individual... as sacred by virtue of its established religious significance to, or ceremonial use by, an Indian religion; provided that the tribe or appropriately authoritative representative of an Indian religion has informed the agency of the existence of such a site."

The issue that seemed most troublesome from William Downes' legal perspective, besides the alleged Establishment clause violation, was that the Park Service had also announced that if the "voluntary closure" was unsuccessful, they would look at additional actions, one of which included converting the "voluntary" June closure of the site to climbers to a "mandatory" shut down. Downes claimed that this threat "`coerces' the support of some American Indians' religious practices."

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Copyright © 1996 Indian Country Communications. This article first appeared in News from Indian Country (July 1996), 20A.

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