Thursday, May 18, 2006

No Place For a Party

How would you feel if 1,000 strangers held a party on your ancestor's grave? Probably the same as Lakota Indian Wally Ripplinger, a resident of Chaska, Minesota, felt last night.

A "Taste of Chaska" community party was held Wednesday in the city's City Square Park, and people were walking all over the three ancient burial mounds located there. Ripplinger and other American Indians were present to usher people off the sacred site.

Ripplinger worries that without oversight, people will continue to desecrate the mounds.

"If we weren't here there'd be people walking up and down the mounds, there'd be people up there eating their evening meal," Ripplinger said. [Link]


Interesting how different cultures react. On the "Day of the Dead" celebrations you actually have a picnic on the graves. I love cemeteries, and to be honest I don't even think twice about walking over a grave... a bit much to tell people not to even stand on them. Is that a native American tradition, not to even stand on a grave?



I think the difference is that, in the case of the "Day of the Dead" or of genealogists traipsing across cemeteries, we are respecting the place—even if our show of respect comes in the form of eating a sandwich or snapping photographs. I was careful to refer to the partygoers as "strangers," to suggest that people gathering for another purpose—with knowledge of what the mounds represent—might be permitted to climb them.

This webpage mentions the Chaska mounds, which are supposed to be roped off during large celebrations like Wednesday's. The author notes that "It might be argued that the fence separates the viewer from the place, undermining a sense of identification necessary to persuade the ignorant to aid in the protection of the sacred site. But the same might be said about rules that protect a cathedral such as Notre Dame in Paris. Visitors are welcome there to view a beautiful place, to pray, to contemplate, to photograph, but not to throw frisbees or have picnics."

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