News: Tennessee National Guard and other states meet with local tribes
Story by Tech. Sgt. Robin Olsen
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Army National Guard participated in a regional Native American Consultation meeting hosted by the Alabama National Guard at Fort McClellan, Ala., Aug. 13 through 15, 2013. This was the first face-to-face meeting in nearly 10 years to discuss construction projects, create formal consultation protocol, while building better relationships between the National Guard and Tribes.
National Guard units from six states, including Tennessee, as well as representatives from nine Native American tribes from across the southeast United States, met over the course of three days to enhance awareness of each organization's concerns. These relationships are essential to fulfill environmental compliance requirements ensuring soldiers are able to effectively train without damaging important cultural resources.
Members of the Tennessee Army National Guard consult with Tribal governments to ensure that military construction projects and training don’t harm cultural resources such as archeological sites and historic buildings. Nurturing and maintaining good relationships helps ensure the environmental compliance, a necessary prelude to training and construction activities.
“We consult with the Tribes because of their historical ties to the area,” said Stephanie Day, Cultural Resources Program Coordinator for the Tennessee Army National Guard Environmental section. “In the event the Tennessee National Guard uncovers burial remains or funerary objects, we consult with the Tribes as well. We work together early to prevent significant delays in construction projects and training.”
The Tennessee Army National Guard presented information about its training sites, management of natural and cultural resources, and a list of upcoming construction projects in which the Tribes may have interest. The information will be utilized by Tribal representatives to prioritize their own needs and interests, as well as ensuring the National Guard doesn’t disturb important cultural elements.
Essentially, someone from the Guard will contact one of the Tribes and ask if there is anything in the area where the Guard plans to work, and they will let us know,” explained Day, “Also, we contact them if we happen to find something in the area, such as artifacts, remains, etc.
There is always the possibility we could disturb something important, and we want to ensure we protect these areas while effectively completing the mission with minimum disruption.”
Together, the Tennessee Army National Guard and the Tribes can streamline efforts and be environmentally compliant for projects and training activities in advance of their actual start date, saving the Guard time and money. Potential problems are identified and addressed in the planning stages where they can be better accommodated.
“The environmental office regularly interfaces with the tribes through email, phone, post, and now these meetings to ensure projects that support training occur on a schedule and in accordance with all relevant laws. The meetings are just another tool to ensure we're is legally compliant and can deal with any unforeseen issues that may arise in the course of carrying out a project,” said Day.
During the meeting, Mr. Charles Coleman, representing Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, presented the Tennessee Army National Guard with a pair of hand-crafted ball sticks used to play the traditional game of stickball [the basis of modern day lacrosse]. This gift was intended to recognize the Tennessee National Guard for its efforts.
Participating states included Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Participating tribes included Coushatta Tribe, Chickasaw Nations, Choctaw Nation, Coushatta Tribe, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Muscogee [Creek] Nation, Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Quapaw Tribe, and Thlopthlocco Tribal Town.