By Melissa Porter
Academy Public Affairs
The Academy hosted an inaugural government-to-government Native American consultation visit June 8-9, marking the first time the installation has engaged in dialogue with federally-recognized Native American tribes regarding the preservation and protection of cultural resources located here.
The primary purpose of the visit was to make formal introductions, disclose to the tribes what archeological resources have been identified at the Academy and how they have been managed, and to work toward a mutual agreement with the interests of the tribes and the Academy in mind.
“We’re laying a foundation to build a stable and enduring relationship that will benefit all parties as the Academy moves forward with our mission of developing leaders of character,” said Col. Rick LoCastro, 10th Air Base Wing commander and host officer for the visit. “This gathering is long overdue, but we are now on the right track.”
The National Historic Preserva-tion Act mandates all federal agencies must identify, evaluate and protect historic properties that have religious significance or cultural importance to federally-recognized tribes as well as consult with those groups.
Presidential Executive Order 13175 and Department of Defense Instruction 4710.02 further mandate installation staff at military bases build stable and enduring government-to-government relations with tribes in a manner that sustains the DoD mission and minimizes effects on protected tribal resources.
The visit included both formal and informal dialogue about what all parties hope to get out of and contribute to the consultation process, as well as fact-finding tours of several archeological sites on Academy property.
“There are currently 164 archaeological sites on the Academy,” said Vicki Williams, Cultural Resources Manager for the Academy. “Eight of these sites were identified as having potential interest to tribes.”
The Archaeological Resources Protection Act and NHPA prohibit the Academy from releasing specific archeological site locations or disclosing the findings at these sites to the public, according to Ms. Williams.
Thirteen tribes with known interest in the Pikes Peak Region were invited to the meeting, but not all were available to attend, said Ms. Williams. Among the tribes represented were the Jicarilla Apache Tribe, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, the Cheyenne Arapahoe Tribes of Oklahoma and the Southern Ute Tribe.
Conrad Fisher, Tribal Historic Preservation officer for the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, was in attendance, along with two other representatives of his tribe.
“Probably the biggest desired outcome (for us) is to ensure that tribal cultural properties are considered in an undertaking when it comes to adverse effects,” he said.
Mr. Fisher said his tribe did have a presence here, but he is uncertain at this time if the tribe has any cultural sites within Academy boundaries. He plans to take back the information gathered during his time here and further explore that possibility.
Likewise, the hosts felt the visit was an opportunity to learn more about the land the Academy sits on and find out what is important to the Native Americans.
“We would like to see an ethnographic study developed for the Academy from the tribal perspective,” said Ms. Williams. “That plays an important part in developing the written history of the land and in how we move forward in protecting our cultural resources.”
While at the Academy, the tribal representatives had a chance to learn more about the opportunities that exist for younger members of their tribes.
Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, USAFA superintendent, addressed the group and encouraged the group to share with members of their communities the opportunities and to encourage prospective cadet candidates within their tribes to work toward coming to the Academy.
“I want you to understand one of our primary goals is to make our Air Force more diverse and that starts here at the Academy,” the general said. “We feel there is strength in diversity.”
Colonel LoCastro later re-emphasized that message following a presentation provided by the Admission’s Diversity Recruiting Office, which informed guests that Native Americans represent 1 percent of the cadet population.
“We should work together to find the future leaders of our Air Force and our country,” he said. “You are instrumental in that effort.”
At the end of the two days, all parties seemed pleased with the historic introduction and are looking forward to future interaction.
“This helped bring all parties together under one roof,” Colonel LoCastro said. “But the dialogue and communication doesn’t end here.”
Colonel LoCastro encouraged the representatives to call whenever they wanted and not wait until the next meeting, currently planned for June 2011.
“This is a very valuable working relationship,” the colonel said. “It is all about understanding, appreciation, knowledge, and respect so that we can work together.”
Mr. Fisher said he left the meeting with the impression the Air Force is willing and sincere about working with the tribes and the Academy has done a tremendous job of keeping some areas in as pristine condition as possible.
“It’s a beautiful area,” Mr. Fisher said. “I’m sure the people of the past thought about it the same way. We should be very careful as the gatekeepers to keep it that way.”