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How to Visit Cultural Sites with Respect

Archaeological sites are fragile and non-renewable. The impacts of our visits to sites can add up to significant damage. But there are ways to appreciate these special places and preserve them for future generations.


“I always stress respect. Everything is a sacred, living entity. Everything has a spirit… Every place you go should be better when you leave.”

— Ramon Riley, White Mountain Apache Tribe Cultural Resources Director


Leave all artifacts where they are.

Artifacts and cultural sites commemorate the history of Indigenous communities. Items like pottery and stone tools connect stories, people, and places. That connection is broken when artifacts are stolen, moved, or otherwise disrespected.


Act like a guest.

Many Indigenous people see what we call “archaeological sites” as family residences. Visit with respectful intent and behavior.


Leave no trace. Look, but don’t touch.

Avoid touching rock imagery. The abrasion and oils on your skin can cause damage. Give structures and rock walls space. Leaning, climbing, or camping on old structures always causes at least some damage. Clean up your trash and stay on designated trails and roads.


Protect sensitive site locations.

Help protect cultural resources by not sharing the location with others. Avoid sharing site locations on social media or Google Maps,  and make sure your shared photos don’t include embedded GPS coordinates.


Respect cultural protocols.

Make sure you understand the cultural history of a site before you visit. Many sites have religious or spiritual significance to Indigenous people. Be mindful and considerate. Visit cultural sites with respectful intent and good energy.


Appreciate sites from afar.

Even brief site visits can cause erosion and damage, especially to caves and rock shelters.  Avoiding these and other sensitive sites honors Indigenous values and beliefs.


Report looting and vandalism.

Call 911 in an emergency, and remember to prioritize your safety first! In a non-emergency, submit a tip or call our tipline to report (1-833-ENDLOOT).


To learn more from Tribal elders and leaders on how to visit cultural sites with respect, please visit Grand Canyon Trust’s How to Visit Bears Ears and Cultural Sites with Respect and watch Visit with Respect: A Native American Stewardship Message.


Additional Resources

Tips for Enjoying & Preserving Archaeological Sites

Visit with Respect Video Series 

Visit Sites with Respect

Tribal Communities are Facing a New Threat: Instagram

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