More Than a Mountain

In this SAPIENS podcast episode, listeners learn about Dzil Nchaa Si’an, a sacred mountain in Arizona that Apache tribal members depend on and deeply value. The mountain has also become a site of resistance.

The sky island of Dzil Nchaa Si’an is more than a mountain. It is a significant landmark in Arizona for Apache tribal members to collect medicinal plants, perform ceremonies, and connect with their ancestors. It is also a site of resistance against the development of an observatory informally known as the “Pope Scope,” for its ties to the Vatican.

Dr. Nicholas Laluk, an Apache tribal member and anthropology professor, speaks about what Indigenous sovereignty looks like in contested spaces—and how Black and Indigenous peoples, students, and archaeologists can protect a holy place.



  • Nicholas Laluk, Ph.D., is a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe in east-central Arizona. He completed his Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Arizona with a minor in American Indian Studies. He has led collaborative projects with the U.S. Forest Service and consulted and acted as deputy tribal historic preservation officer for the White Mountain Apache Tribe. Nick is an assistant professor in anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research goals strongly emphasize and mandate collaborative and multivocal inclusion of tribal and Indigenous communities who have ongoing and ancestral affiliations to current and former homelands. He is also interested in achieving social justice for Indigenous communities through the lenses of sovereignty-driven research and decolonial methodologies that foreground Indigenous epistemologies and tribal cultural heritage resource best-management practices in the continued Indigenization of the discipline of anthropology.

SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is produced by House of Pod and supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation. SAPIENS is also part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library. This season was created in collaboration with the Indigenous Archaeology Collective and the Society of Black Archaeologists, with art by Carla Keaton and music from Jobii, _91nova, and Justnormal.

Listen also to SAPIENS Talk Back, a companion series by Cornell University’s RadioCIAMS. In episode 5, we continue the discussion that began in episode 5 of season 4 of the SAPIENS podcast, a conversation that examines how archaeologists study sacred sites… and when they don’t. We are joined by Ora Marek-Martinez, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Northern Arizona University and Prof. Nicholas Laluk, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. This episode was made possible by financial support from the Andrew Fiske Memorial Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston. We want to thank our panelists for leading our conversation: Gabby Omoni Hartemann, Eric Mazariegos, and Maryan Ragheb. This episode was hosted by CIAMS graduate students Anna Whittemore and Alex Symons, and our sound engineer was Olivia Graves. This episode was produced at Cornell University by Adam T. Smith, with Rebecca Gerdes as our production assistant.

Check out these related resources:

Episode sponsor:

  • University of Massachusetts, Boston, Fiske Center

Read a transcript of this episode here.

Enjoying Season 4 of Sapiens: A Podcast for Everything Human? Then you’ll love the Heritage Voices podcast on the Archaeology Podcast Network! Heritage Voices focuses on representation in discussions about Anthropology, Cultural Resource Management/Heritage, and Land Management. Here are just a few of the many questions explored on the Heritage Voices podcast: How do you protect your heritage when climate change is drowning your island? What can Anthropology teach us about the US-Mexico border? About enslaved people? Why are southwest tribes advocating for protections for Greater Chaco Canyon and Bears Ears National Monument?

Back to Season 4 homepage.