Medicine Bluffs: Sacred Spaces, Healing Ceremony

By: Stephanie Conduff | Law Clerk | stephanie.conduff@procopio.com
Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

I was recently invited to the sacred Summer Solstice Prayer Ceremony with the Comanche Nation. It took place on Medicine Bluffs on their traditional lands – a place surrounded by sage, a serene vista and on a bluff that allowed me to see for miles in the four directions. Elders shared with me that Medicine Bluffs is considered a place of puhu. In their Native language puhu means ‘medicine’ or ‘power.’ We had three generations of Native women there for a healing ceremony. It was incredibly peaceful. Until the sounds of artillery fire began…

You see – Medicine Bluffs is on federal land at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. And, despite this sacred time and ceremony for the Comanche people, the Army continued to detonate ordnances nearby. Sacred sites are not places of the past—they are of the present and the future, and must to be treated with the respect that recognizes this is true for churches, mosques and holy places worldwide.

This experience empowered me to intimately understand the necessity of protecting sacred sites. Since 2008 this land has been involved in a protracted legal battle with the federal government.  The U.S. Army attempted to construct a warehouse on Medicine Bluffs. The cultural and religious significance of Medicine Bluffs to area tribes, especially the Comanche Nation and their citizens, has been well known by the Army for approximately 130 years, Comanche Chairman Wallace Coffey said in media statements. Had the Army been successful in its expansion plan and constructed the warehouse it would have unduly burdened the exercise of religious ceremonies of its citizens.  The site was spared from physical damage, though it appears that the Army hasn’t quite come to grips with its sanctity during ceremonies.

Still, I was blessed to experience the puhu that day. And I am thankful to those who ensured its sacredness – and other critical spaces – for this generation and beyond.

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2008/09/22/fort-sill-project-threatens-sacred-site-80524

http://www.kswo.com/story/8763155/comanche-nation-battling-fort-sill-over-rights-to-medicine-bluff

http://www.narf.org/nill/bulletins/dct/documents/comanchenationok.pdf

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.