Utah DOD agencies host annual meeting with American Indian tribes

  • Published
  • By Barbara Fisher
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Utah Department of Defense agencies hosted their annual face-to-face meeting Aug. 25-26 with American Indian tribes who claim ancestral and ongoing ties to lands managed by the DOD agencies.

Primary hosts for this year’s meeting, which was held at the Bear River Bird Refuge in Brigham City, were the Utah National Guard and the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation. Hill Air Force Base, Dugway Proving Ground and Tooele Army Depot co-hosted the event.

Attending were members of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, the Crow Tribe, the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe, the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah and the Skull Valley Band of Indians. A representative of the Shivwits Band, which is associated with the Paiute, also attended, along with the Utah Department of Indian Affairs and the Utah State Historic Preservation Office.

Federal agencies are required by law to consider the impact of all their activities and projects on cultural resources – archaeology, architecture and other areas of past human activity – on the lands they manage, said Anya Kitterman, Hill AFB’s Cultural Resource Program manager. This means they must consult with those American Indian tribes who claim a traditional affiliation with lands managed by the agencies.

“The Air Force currently consults with 21 different tribes, spanning eight western states, who have ancestral and ongoing ties to Hill AFB-managed lands, including the Utah Test and Training Range,” she said. “We continually seek ways to improve and increase dialogue so that the tribes feel their voice is being heard.”

Kitterman said much of that consultation is done through mail, email and phone calls, but face-to-face meetings, such as the Annual American Indian Meeting and quarterly Utah tribal meetings, allow for more in-depth dialogue between tribal leaders and installation leadership.

Hill AFB started this annual meeting 11 years ago, and over time, invited other DOD agencies in Utah to participate. This year’s meeting included discussions between DOD and tribal representatives about upcoming projects, site visits and protection of important tribal sites and areas.

There was also a guided tour of petroglyphs in Box Elder County, Utah, and workshops featuring American Indian crafts and food. The tribes were also provided information about a recent archaeological excavation on the UTTR that discovered evidence of a hearth used for cooking that dated to 12,300 years old.

“The tribes feel it is vital that we understand their culture and perspective so that we can fully protect and manage the resources they find so valuable and, in many cases, they may view as sacred,” Kitterman said. “The one-on-one conversations and storytelling helps the military representatives gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for how the tribes view the world around them.”

Col. David Dunklee, 75th Air Base Wing vice commander, represented Hill AFB and Col. Jennifer Hammerstedt, Hill’s installation commander, at his first annual meeting. He said it was an honor to participate where the Air Force had the opportunity “to share our on-going efforts to preserve and care for the vast and valuable land entrusted to our care.”

Dunklee said the meeting helped to build stronger relationships and trust with the various nations represented.

“The key to its success is effective communication,” he said. “I left the meeting with a greater respect for the proud heritage of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation and the 20 other tribes having a connection to the Hill AFB mission. I echo Colonel Hammerstedt’s commitment to strengthening the relationship in the future.”

Kitterman, who serves as Hill’s archaeologist, has been attending the annual meeting for three years now and said they have helped her gain a great respect for the tribes.

“Many of them have had to fight from the brink of extinction to simply be recognized,” she said. “Yet, I have seen them continue to grow and maintain their culture. Their appreciation of the greater landscape and inter-connectedness of the world around them has helped me become a better cultural resource manager and archaeologist by expanding my own perspective. I look forward to all of the meetings to come.”