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Sacred Lands Conference

Desertlands/Sacred Lands Conference Begins Oct. 30

The free event will address the cultural, historical and spiritual importance of desert lands to Native Americans.

(October 28, 2009)

PALM DESERT, Calif. – The cultural, historical and spiritual importance of desert lands to the Native Americans who live there is the subject of a two-day conference, “Desertlands/Sacred Lands,” that begins on Friday, Oct. 30, at the UCR Palm Desert Graduate Center.

The conference, co-sponsored by the California Center for Native Nations at UC Riverside and the Native American Land Conservancy, is free and open to the public. The UCR Palm Desert Graduate Center is located at 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive.

“The purpose of the conference is to share views of Native American landscapes, and explain why Native Americans consider them sacred or culturally significant,” said Clifford Trafzer, UCR professor of history and Rupert Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs.

For many people, land exists only to be used and exploited for economic gain, transportation routes, communication systems, and recreation, Trafzer said. It is important to consider that some lands hold special meaning to indigenous peoples who have cultural and personal relationships with ceremonial areas, former villages, cemeteries, rock art, and sites tied to ancient and historical stories and songs, he said.

“Before destroying the sites or compromising their integrity, we will ask participants to consider viewing the land through another lens. When we lose cultural sites, all people lose a significant component of our national treasures and history,” Trafzer said. “The Native American Land Conservancy, in partnership with the California Center for Native Nations at UCR, wishes to share alternative views of the land so that individuals, government agencies, developers, and the general public might know of the importance of preserving and protecting desert and sacred lands.”

The conference begins with a reception at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30, followed at 6:40 p.m. by a panel discussing the reasons why desert lands are important to the community. Presenters will include: California Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez, D-Coachella; Peter Siminski, director of conservation and education at The Living Desert; and Katie Barrows, director of environmental resources at Coachella Valley Association of Governments.

On Saturday, Oct. 31, the conference continues at 9 a.m. with a welcome from Dean Mike, president of the Native American Land Conservancy, and opening remarks by UCR’s Trafzer.

Panels include:

9:30 a.m. – A Sense of Place: Desertlands as a Cultural Landscape. Presenters: Sean Milanovich, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians; Matt Leivas, The Salt Song Project; and Michael Madrigal, Native American Land Conservancy.

10:45 a.m. – The Past Before Us: The Fish Traps of Ancient Lake Cahuilla. Presenters: Charles Sams, The Trust for Public Land; Nancy Anastasia Wiley, Scientific Resource Surveys Inc.; William Madrigal, Native American Land Conservancy; and Anthony Madrigal, Native American Heritage Commission.

Noon: Hosted Lunch

1:30 p.m. – Conserving Endangered Desert Lands and Resources. Presenters: Russell Scofield, California Desert Managers Group; D’Anne Albers, Defenders of Wildlife; Marie Cottrell, Twentynine Palms Marine Base; and David Wooten, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

3 p.m. – Sharing the Desert Landscape: The Recreational Use of Desertlands. Presenters: Aurora Wilson, Coachella Valley Association of Governments; Meg Grossglass, ORBA - the Off-Road Business Association; Vicky Fuller, Joshua Tree Community Association; and Linda Tandle, Anza-Borrego Foundation.

4:15 p.m. – Closing remarks and closing ceremony

To RSVP or for more information call the Native American Land Conservancy at (619) 825-9101 or e-mail

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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