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Native Americans visit Fightertown for meeting

By Cpl. Anthony Guas | | September 2, 2005

Three Native American representatives from three different tribes visited Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Aug. 25-26.

Richard Allen of the Cherokee Nation, Emman Spain of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and Tim Thompson of the Muscogee Creek Nation, visited the Lowcountry for a meeting with the Natural Resources Environmental Office and also took a tour of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122.

Every year Native Americans who have interest in the Air Station’s land visit Fightertown to review projects and agendas, according to John Luce, the natural and cultural resources manager for the Air Station.

“They have a right to review the projects that will disturb the soil,” Luce said. “They have this right because we may be on historical sites or digging in land that have the possibility of human remains or artifacts.”

The Native Americans also come to learn about the plants and animals in the area, according to Howard.

“They are interested in native plants for medical and ceremonial reasons,” Howard said. “Most of the tribe leaders have masters in anthropology or PhDs. They are well versed in the history of their tribes.”

Before their meeting, the Native Americans attended the Air Station change-of-command ceremony.

“It was good to attend the change-of-command,” Allen said. “We have worked with Col. Stockwell a lot. I hated to see him retire.”

On August 25, the Native Americans were taken on an extensive tour of VMFA-122, where they learned how a Hornet operates and the different types of military occupational specialties it takes to keep the jets flying.

“I enjoyed it, we learned a lot,” Allen said. “Last year we saw the CH-46 and just like then, it has been a good experience.”

The Air Station has been meeting with Native American tribes for the past four years, according to Alice Howard, the natural resource environmental officer for the Air Station. The Air Station has signed five memorandums of understanding with American Indians from the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (creek) and Seminole Nations.

The MOUs were signed by former Air Station Commanding Officer, Col. Harmon A. Stockwell, as a result of a directive ordered by President William J. Clinton in 1994.

“There was a law passed which stated that we had to consult with Native Americans ... before disturbing any of their old land,” Howard said.

The directive calls on federal agencies to implement programs that respect tribal sovereignty, deal with tribes on a “government-to-government” basis and consult with tribes when federal actions impact their lands or resources.