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09.30  Pilgrimage in a Contested Sacred Landscape: A Case Study in Conflict between Culture, Heritage Management, and Development in Native North America

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In many societies around the world, religious specialists engage in the act of pilgrimage. While on pilgrimage, specialists travel on long-established ceremonial pathways to unique and powerful places and landscapes. As the pilgrims follow these trails, they perform ritual acts at a series of places before reaching their destination. These rituals and shrines are critical components to successfully completing the pilgrimage ceremony. Understanding how pilgrimages and associated performance characteristics manifest themselves physically leads to interesting questions about how places and people are connected and how trail systems manifest themselves across a landscape. For those who have an interest in heritage conservation, identifying pilgrimage trails and their performance characteristics presents unique challenges in preservation planning and environmental impact assessments. This issue is prevalent in the American Southwest. Kavaicuwac is a large mountain that is located in the southern portion of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Mountain in southern Utah and it has been a pilgrimage destination place for Southern Paiute religious specialists since time immemorial. The pilgrimage to Kavaicuwac involves visiting and interacting with a series of places along the 30-mile trail. This sacred path currently is under threat from the possible construction of a 130-mile water pipeline. Southern Paiute people have argued that this trail should be treated as one large integrated resource that needs to be protected because any potential negative impact to one segment of the pilgrimage trail would cause irreversible damage to this cultural resource. This paper will examine the conflict between the need to preserve cultural heritage and natural resource development and how this affects political decision-making regarding environmental impacts.

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