TITLE: Opposition to Use of Federal Funds for Projects Harming Tribal Cultural Resources
WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and
WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and
WHEREAS, NCAI has been active in the preservation and protection of native sacred places and cultural resources across the nation; and
WHEREAS, tribal nations face an accelerated amount of projects that are funded by the federal government and benefit private parties and governmental entities, which have caused irreparable harm to tribal ancestral land and cultural resources; and
WHEREAS, projects that are funded by the federal government are supposed to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act and other federal laws and policies in order to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse impacts on tribal lands and cultural resources; and
WHEREAS, enforcement of these laws and policies is inadequate and often results in irreparable harm to tribal cultural resources; and
WHEREAS, NCAI has been informed that the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), utilizing federal funding administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is constructing a 5.9 mile highway bypass (Project) near the community of Willits, through the Little Lake Valley in Mendocino County, California; and
WHEREAS, this area is the aboriginal territory of the Pomo Indians and several federally-recognized tribes currently have lands located in the area and maintain historic and cultural ties to the Project lands; and
WHEREAS, during construction of the Project there have been several unexpected discoveries of archaeological and historic sites that are eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places and which may have significant cultural value to the native Pomo people; and
WHEREAS, insufficient consultation with nearby tribes, inaccurate information, factually wrong planning documents, and inadequate implementation of protective measures has led to tribal cultural resources and historic sites being substantially harmed in violation of commitments of Caltrans; and
WHEREAS, both the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the California Office of Historic Preservation have requested that Caltrans reinitiate consultation under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act with nearby tribes and develop an Memorandum of Agreement to address these issues; and
WHEREAS, as of October 1, 2013, Caltrans has refused to halt construction activities within archaeologically sensitive areas or commit to reinitiating consultation with nearby tribes as requested by at least one tribe.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that NCAI hereby requests that the FHWA and Caltrans halt construction activities within archaeologically-sensitive areas and reinitiate consultation with nearby tribes under Section 106 in order to develop a Memorandum of Agreement to allow the Project to proceed in a manner that protects tribal cultural resources and historic sites; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI strongly urges the FHWA and Congress to preclude the use of federal funds for the Project until Caltrans properly complies with its legal obligations under federal laws and policies, and complies with the requests of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the California Office of Historic Preservation; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI requests Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities and investigate the activities that led to the harm and potential destruction of tribal cultural resources and historic properties as a result of this Project; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.
The foregoing resolution was adopted by the General Assembly at the 2013 Annual Session of the National Congress of American Indians, held at the Cox Business Center from October 13 - 18, 2013 in Tulsa, Oklahoma with a quorum present.