Utah DOD agencies host annual meeting with American Indian tribes

WENDOVER, Utah -- Utah Department of Defense agencies hosted an annual face-to-face meeting April 27-28 with members of several American Indian Tribes who claim ancestral and ongoing ties to lands managed by the DOD agencies.

Primary hosts for this year’s meeting, which was held in the adjacent cities of West Wendover, Nev., and Wendover, Utah, were Dugway Proving Ground and the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation. Hill Air Force Base, the Utah National Guard and Tooele Army Depot co-hosted the event.

Attending were members of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe, the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, the Paiute Tribe of Utah and the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone. Utah State Bureau of Indian Affairs director Shirlee Silversmith attended as well.

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, Hill AFB’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. Kitterman said much of that consultation is done through mail, email and phone calls, but face-to-face meetings, such as the Annual American Indian Meeting and quarterly Utah tribal meetings, allow for more in-depth dialogue between tribal leaders and installation leadership.

“The annual meetings provide an opportunity for conversation and discussion, which helps us identify areas critically important to the tribes,” she said. “Through this, we are able to protect and manage cultural, natural and other resources, while avoiding possible costly delays.”

Hill AFB started this annual meeting 12 years ago, and over time, invited other DOD agencies in Utah to participate. This year’s meeting included a presentation by Utah Test and Training Range Headquarters’ commander Col. Christopher Gough about safety buffer zones around the UTTR that were established by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

The Air Force also discussed archaeological testing planned this year around seven identified sites located on UTTR’s South Range. During a 2016 archaeological excavation on the UTTR the remains of a hearth used for cooking was dated to 12,300 years old.

There was also a guided tour of Utah’s Historic Wendover Airfield, which has close ties to the formation of the UTTR and Dugway, and a trip to Danger Cave, an archaeological site near Wendover on state lands, which has helped shape the understanding of archaeological finds within the UTTR.

Allen Fry, Hill’s Installation Tribal Liaison Officer, said the Air Force has worked over the years to develop positive relationships with the tribes. His role is to provide a link between the tribes and Hill’s senior leadership to assure tribal concerns are addressed and facilitate review of any on-going or future plans that may affect traditional tribal lands.

“This annual meeting, along with the scheduled quarterly updates, is paramount to maintaining those relationships and continuing to build the tribal trust with not only the Air Force, but the Department of Defense,” Fry said.

Harry Briesmaster III, 75th Civil Engineer Group director, represented Hill AFB and Col. Jennifer Hammerstedt, Hill’s installation commander, at the meeting. He said it was an honor again to participate in this year’s event where the Air Force had the opportunity “to share its on-going efforts to preserve and care for the land entrusted to us, as well as discuss future operational use and our full cooperation to minimize any impacts.”

These meetings he said, “are vital to our continued commitment to communicate and work together to support the interest of all parties involved.”