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NEWS | Oct. 28, 2022

JBLE holds annual Native American Consultation

By Staff Sgt. Anthony Nin Leclerec 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base Langley-Eustis leadership hosted members of the Nansemond Indian Nation and the Chickahominy Indian Tribe for its annual government-to-government Tribal Consultation, Oct. 25, 2022.

The purpose of the meeting was to continue to build a relationship between the leaders of JBLE and the federally recognized Native American Tribes and Nations with historic ties to the land where JBLE is located.

"It's truly an honor to be here today, flanked by our neighboring tribal leaders whose ancestors lived on this land going back 10,000 years," said U.S. Air Force Col. Greg Beaulieu, 633d Air Base Wing commander. "This is a mutually beneficial forum that allows us to discuss the plans and processes we have in place that ensure we continue to preserve native cultural sites, to protect the installation’s natural resources and repair past environmental mistakes where possible. It's a very special, and humbling, opportunity to hear first-hand the unique stories and history of Virginia's Native tribes."

Although this is an annual meeting, JBLE leaders work with the local tribes to ensure each iteration discusses new topics or provides relevant updates tailored to the needs of both parties.

"The Native American Tribes and Nations have a good understanding of the significant number and types of Native American cultural resources as a result of our previous meetings and regular consultations,” said Dr. Christopher L. McDaid, 733d Mission Support Group archaeologist.  “This year we included information on natural resources and how JBLE complies with the National Environmental Policy Act since Native Tribes and Nations are interested in the environment as a whole, not just cultural sites. "

NEPA was signed into law on January 1, 1970, and requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. As a result, physical natural environments, and cultural and historical resources are covered within the Act. This allows agencies to provide opportunities for public review and comment on those evaluations.

“It was a pleasure being here today as part of the consultation program,” said Tribal Chief Keith F. Anderson of the Nansemond Indian Nation. “These types of programs are imperative to building trust between the bases and indigenous persons.”

According to McDaid, many of the documents JBLE sends to the Native American Tribes and Nations are created to comply with NEPA, so explaining how the process works was important. Future meetings will provide new information as well as updates on previously presented topics.

“The things happening within the footprint of JBLE is not going to have a direct impact on my tribe, but the things being done to mitigate challenges posed by climate changes, such as sea-level rise, are of interest to us,” said Dana Adkins of the Chickahominy Indian Tribe. “[By seeing what JBLE is doing] we can see if those practices can be applied on our own land, specifically along our village sites on the Chickahominy River.”

The installation’s Natural Resources Management Program briefed about the plants, animals, and various habitats including forests, wetlands, shorelines and streams. Among the talking points was the protection of native species and the management of invasive ones. They also discussed the base’s Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan, and how these natural resources are important to, and play a part of, JBLE’s mission.

The Installation Development Plan, Installation Restoration Program and Community Involvement Plan were also among the points of conversation.

“It’s always great to be informed of current and future projects as they relate to environmental impacts, not just to the indigenous community, but to the community at large,” Anderson said. “It is my hope that these types of programs continue and become a staple in our communities.”