Native voices and native values in sacred landscapes management: Bridging the indigenous values gap on public lands through co-management policy

This dissertation is a qualitative investigation into Navajo citizen opinion on the need and form of a federal-tribal co-management model for sacred lands held in federal stewardship. The central question in this inquiry is, are co-management agreements appropriate for sacred landscapes management, and if so, how would they work? In other words, what are the issues, fundamental elements and core values of a "best-practices" sacred lands co-management model? This question is important because Native sacred lands protection and access are essential to reinforcing cultural identity and well-being, and revitalizing tribal communities. Across the United States, these places are being desecrated or destroyed at an alarming rate by commercial enterprise, public recreation, and political indifference. Native Peoples are also denied access to sacred sites for traditional subsistence or ceremonial purposes. This neglect of traditional Native cultural values in sacred lands management is referred to in this analysis as the "Indigenous values gap."

Navajo response is focused on three Diné sacred landscapes, the Dinétah in northwest New Mexico, and the San Francisco Peaks and Canyon de Chelly, both located in northeast Arizona. These are large, multi-jurisdictional resources that are critical to Navajo culture and religion, and are currently under physical or legal threat. Navajo citizens in this inquiry generally agree that sacred lands co-management agreements between the Navajo Nation and federal agencies are desirable as instruments that can formalize the "practice" of genuine power-sharing relative to the management of cultural property. They also agree that co-management is not yet practical as a governance structure and philosophy until the Federal Government changes its perspective toward sharing management decisions with a Native nation. Navajo citizens also argue that co-management is not practical until the Navajo Nation builds the capable institutions and sacred lands management vision on which to base co-management agreement development and implementation. The community development concepts of the Harvard Nation-Building model are central to building effective sacred lands management plans and co-management regimes. A "best-practices" model of sacred lands co-management blends the sacred principles of the Navajo doctrine of hozho with the secular principles of property rights, protected areas, and nation-building.


Sharon Milholland


Rob Williams





Arizona State Museum: 

P9791 M63n


ATT 3297972

UA Library: 

E9791 2008
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences