MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Less than a year has passed since Fightertown made history by being the first Marine installation to sign Memorandums of Understanding with Native American Indian tribes, but the effort still continues today.
Members of the Alabama-Quassarte, Muscogee and Thloptlocco tribal towns were some of the Native American Indian representatives who met with Col. Robert Lanham, the Air Station commanding officer and several members of the Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Office to review a year’s worth of progress here June 6.
The annual meeting was held as a result of eight MOUs signed by Col. Harmon Stockwell, the former Air Station commanding officer, and various Native American Indian nations in 2005. The MOUs were signed to implement tribal programs that respect tribal sovereignty.
“Last year, when we signed the (MOUs) with the Native Americans, it was a much anticipated end to a three-year process,” said Alice Howard, the Air Station’s NREAO Officer. “When the tribes’ representatives visited the Air Station this time we were able to discuss on both ends the progress we have made.”
During the meeting, Air Station and tribal town representatives discussed the MOUs, which require Fightertown to present any inadvertent and intentional excavation of archeological material to the “Five Civilized Tribes.” The Five Civilized tribes is a term for five American Indian Nations that previously lived in the Southwestern United States.
“We have not made any (historical) discoveries this year,” said Debra Rogers, the Air Station’s Air Quality and National Environmental Policy Act Program Manager. “But it was still a great chance to meet with the tribal leaders to discuss future plans for construction and how to handle any discoveries.”
By complying with the MOUs, the Air Station will ensure all human remains and burial artifacts of American Indians are returned to their tribes for proper storage and burial, according to Howard.
“It’s great to see the progress we are making,” Howard said. “I think MOUs help us because they ease any worries - by both military and tribal leaders - about how to care for and handle important pieces of Native American History.”
Currently, the Air Station and tribal towns are planning future meetings to further discuss preservation of Historical Native American Artifacts found aboard the Air Station and its surrounding properties.