National Congress of American Indians Passes Resolution Supporting Sherwood Valley Pomo Struggle with Caltrans

NCAI_LogoThe National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is the leading inter-tribal organization in the country.  Among other activities, the organization employs numerous full-time professional lobbyists in Washington, DC.  The group passed the following resolution at its October 13-18 national convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The resolution calls for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to suspend funding of the Willits Bypass unless Caltrans finally addresses the grievances the Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians have been raising since April, calls on the US Congress to investigate Caltrans’ desecration of a major archeological site in the Little Lake wick drain fields, and asks that Caltrans halt Bypass construction in culturally sensitive areas until meaningful consultation can take place between Caltrans and Sherwood Valley representatives.

The National Congress of American Indians Resolution #TUL-13-060 
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 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, 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.

CERTIFICATION  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.

 

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