Around the world, sacred sites play a fundamental role in sustaining healthy ecosystems, maintaining landscape and aesthetic features, and nurturing cultural identity and cohesion.
What is it?
Since long before the invention of national parks, human cultures have practiced conservation based on the identification and protection of sacred natural sites. Whether as sources of water or ancestral burial grounds, animal nurseries or mythical mountains, sacred sites represent ecologically and spiritually potent nodes in the web of life. Defined as areas of land, water, or structures of spiritual significance to local peoples, sacred sites can be the home of the gods, the center of creation, or lush landscapes of legend and lore.
Why is it important?
The local custodians of sacred sites – the generations of people who revere and protect their natural and cultural wealth – are crucial to the maintenance of biodiversity around the world. As where the establishment of modern protected parks has often resulted in the displacement of Indigenous peoples and local communities, the acknowledgement and protection of sacred sites, as a conservation strategy, leverages the knowledge and spirituality of native communities, validating their beliefs and strengthening the rights of Indigenous peoples globally. Emphasizing the significance of sacred sites for maintaining natural and cultural heritage can create an inclusive brand of conservation that empowers Indigenous peoples and local communities while protecting biodiversity.
How is The Christensen Fund involved?
The Christensen Fund supports the efforts of Indigenous organizations and their partners to explore, document, and affirm the role and function of sacred sites in the maintenance of biocultural landscapes. We fund studies of the traditional custodianship of sacred sites; encourage the revival of Indigenous practices and rituals; support capacity-building and education for custodians; and work to raise the profile of sacred sites through publications, artistic expression, legal representation, and the development of practical toolkits, manuals and guidelines. Examples of this work include our collaboration with the IUCN on Protecting Sacred Natural Sites of the World and with the Sacred Land Film Project.