COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo --
Long before Schriever existed, the area we now populate was once a thriving crossroads for many first nations.
Many Native American tribes, such as the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Jicarilla Apache and Ute tribes, inhabited and hunted the local region.
In recognition of this history and the need to understand the importance of cultural preservation, Peterson Air Force Base sponsored representatives from approximately 14 Native American tribes to be a part of the Front Range Tribal Relations meeting at the Drury Inn, April 25-26.
Leaders from Peterson, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Schriever Air Force Base, Buckley Air Force Base, F.E. Warren Air Force Base and the U.S. Air Force Academy attended.
Over the last 100 years, the United States Congress has passed a series of laws designed to protect Native Americans and their heritage. The ideas expressed in the Archeological Resources Protection Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act have made their way into Defense Department and Air Force regulations.
The meeting included blessings, installation overviews, tribal overviews, round table discussions, information booths and a tour of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.
“The purpose of this meeting was to build relationships with tribal leaders that have or may have an interest in the resources on the land encompassed by the installations of the Front Range,” said Sandy Ingrassia, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron cultural and natural resources manager. “Our goal was to bring governments together to learn about each other and find ways to come together to meet our respective mission needs.”
Base commanders spoke about archaeological and historic resources, cultural resources management plans and upcoming projects.
“I wish I could go back and change the past, but I can tell you I am committed to moving forward, as Schriever’s installation commander, to ensure I’m sharing the base’s history with you,” said Col. DeAnna Burt, 50th Space Wing commander. “We want to get this right and move forward in a positive direction, and I plan to be as open and transparent with the paperwork that we do have and have done.”
Many of the tribes expressed their concerns, creating a learning environment for all who attended. The tribes requested further assessment of the land surrounding the different installations to see if any more artifacts have gone undiscovered. They also requested to be mindful of sacred sites as well as to maintain overall respect for the land.
“I’m on the tribal council and have met with federal, state, city and council leaders, but have never met with military members before today,” said Ryan Kills a Hundred, Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe tribal historic preservation officer assistant. “The discussions and immediate respect that is already being shown here is incredible. In past meetings I’ve attended, this was not always the case. It’s encouraging and feel like we are going in the right direction. I’m happy to be here and share what we discussed with our fellow councilmen.”
Despite some of the positive feedback, the meeting resulted in several controversial moments; however, this was the first step to gaining a new understanding between both parties on such a large scale.
Base leaders assured tribe representatives of their commitment to continue building partnerships, lines of communication and underlined there is still a lot of work to do toward resolving issues.
Invited to attend the 2017 Front Range Tribal Relations Meeting were representatives from:
-- The Northern Arapaho Tribe, Lander, Wyoming
-- The Ute Indian Tribe, Fort Duchesne, Utah
-- The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Towaoc, Colorado
-- The Jicarilla Apache Nation, Dulce, New Mexico
-- The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, Concho, Oklahoma
-- The Southern Ute Tribe, Ignacio, Colorado
-- The Comanche Nation of Oklahoma, Lawton, Oklahoma
-- Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Eagle Butte, South Dakota
-- Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Fort Thompson, South Dakota
-- Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, Flandreau, South Dakota
-- Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Pawnee, Oklahoma
-- Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Rosebud, South Dakota
-- Spirit Lake Tribe, Fort Totten, North Dakota
-- Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Fort Yates, North Dakota
-- Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation, New Town, North Dakota