Hill hosts annual meeting with American Indian tribes

  • Published
  • By Barbara Fisher
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Hill Air Force Base hosted its annual government-to-government meeting and cultural exchange April 19-20 with members of several American Indian Tribes who claim ancestral and ongoing ties to lands managed by Department of Defense agencies in Utah.

The meeting was held in Tooele and on the Utah Test and Training Range. Hill AFB served as host this year, with Dugway Proving Ground, the Utah National Guard and the Toole Army Depot serving as DOD co-hosts. Tribal co-host with the Air Force was the Pueblo of Zuni tribe.

Attending also were members of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, Duckwater Shoshone Tribe of the Duckwater Reservation, the Northern Arapaho, the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, the Paiute Tribe of Utah, the San Juan Southern Paiute, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe of the Fort Hall Reservation, and the Ute Mountain Ute. Shirlee Silversmith, director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, also attended.

Federal agencies are required by law to consider the impact of all their activities and projects on cultural resources – archaeology, historic architecture and various areas of past human activity – on the lands they manage, said Anya Kitterman, the base’s Cultural Resource Program manager. Hill AFB consults with 21 American Indian tribes who claim a traditional affiliation with lands on the Utah Test and Training Range and Hill AFB.

“This year we had several tribes attend who have never attended the meeting and several who have only attended once during the meeting’s 13-year history,” Kitterman said. “Hearing the exchange of cultural identities, traditions and perspectives of so many different tribes with vastly different backgrounds helps us improve our relationship and understanding with these stakeholders and neighbors.

“This was the perfect opportunity for us to learn about each other and gain a broader and different world view,” she said.

The first day of the meeting focused on the DOD agencies providing information about missions and upcoming projects to the tribes and hearing their feedback, concerns and questions. For the first time, leaders from the DOD agencies and tribes met in a separate closed session to discuss any issues.

“The leadership meeting was held as a recommendation from past years’ meetings,” said Allen Fry, Hill’s Installation Tribal Liaison Officer. “There have been times when issues were brought up that may not have been relevant or appropriate to the bigger audience or the tribal leaders may not have even expressed a concern in the bigger forum. The leadership-only meeting was a perfect opportunity for tribal and military leadership to discuss those items.”

On the second day, the group visited the UTTR’s Oasis Compound, the Homestead Cave cultural resource site and a natural resource restoration site where the Air Force is working to eliminate cheat grass and cultivate nutritious native vegetation to improve the land and help the wildlife who live on the UTTR. The Pueblo of Zuni also lead workshops on jewelry, Zuni fetish (small carvings serving a ceremonial purpose) and pottery making.

Fry was pleased with the attendance at this year’s annual meeting and said it was the “best turnout yet.”

“We had nearly 80 attendees,” he said, “and nine tribes were represented, some from as far away as New Mexico.”

Fry said the Air Force has worked over the years to develop positive relationships with the tribes and his role is to provide a link between them and Hill’s senior leadership.

“We are committed to communicating with all the tribes and responding to concerns as they occur,” he said. “This annual meeting is another opportunity to maintain those relationships and continue to build trust, not only with the Air Force, but with the DOD.”