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NEWS | Nov. 3, 2021

Tribal and JBLE leaders hold annual consult

By Erik Siegel Joint Base Langley-Eustis Public Affairs

Members of the Nansemond Indian Nation and the Chickahominy Indian Tribe met with Joint Base Langley-Eustis leadership as part of the annual government-to-government Tribal Consultation, Oct. 6-7, 2021.

The tribal consultation itself is a process aimed at building and maintaining meaningful and stable relations between federal government activities, which include military installations like JBLE, and federally-recognized tribal governments, which are sovereign nations in their own right. The tribal members at the consult are all descended from peoples native to the land JBLE now occupies.

“These Tribes have lived in the area for thousands of years,” said Dr. Christopher L. McDaid, 733d Mission Support Group archaeologist. “The tangible remains of their ancestors’ presence can be found on the 135 archaeological/cultural sites on JBLE that have evidence of Native people living on them. The oldest archaeological sites on JBLE are 10,000 years old.”

Those 135 archaeological/cultural sites are designated as such because of Native materials found on them.

“The material is generally stone tools, Native pottery, and the flakes left from making stone tools,” said McDaid. “There is the potential for some of the sites to contain Native gravesites.  The Tribes are very concerned about Native gravesites.”

JBLE, per federal law, is required to annually consult with the Tribes about the way JBLE personnel manage those sites.

 “We wanted the Tribes to be aware that JBLE knows it has significant Native archaeological/cultural sites on the installation,” said McDaid, “and we have processes and procedures in place so in most cases we plan projects to avoid those sites.”

McDaid also said that JBLE has an active environmental restoration program with JBLE personnel working to clean up sites contaminated in the past. These efforts to restore the natural environment are important to the Tribes, so letting them know JBLE is practicing good stewardship is important.

However, the consult is a two-way conversation, which distinctly gives the floor to the Tribes to discuss their concerns.

“They wanted JBLE leadership to understand their history, particularly attempts to erase them and their peoples’ story from the public’s understanding of history,” said McDaid. “They also want people to know that they are still here and have been resilient in the face of governmental attempts to claim they were not [American] Indians.”

While the government-to-government consultation had moments of reflection, it also had an eye toward the future.

“The Native leaders also mentioned working with JBLE to provide information to the base community about the long history of the Native people of Virginia,” said McDaid. “We will be working with the Tribes to develop signs about Virginia Native history for the Fort Eustis Nature Trail about the Tribes. We will be exploring what opportunities exist at Langley.”

McDaid indicated the JBLE historical/archaeological team will be working on finding the most effective and efficient ways to communicate with the Tribes about planned projects; getting them the right information at the right time.

“The visiting Tribal leaders were impressed that the installation does have procedures in place to protect and preserve Native archaeological/cultural sites and that we are working to restore the environment after past contamination,” said McDaid.