MENDOCINO CO., 3/8/17 — Three local tribes have a made a formal demand of CalTrans to deliver archeological artifacts, that they believe CalTrans uncovered in during the construction of the Willits Bypass. The demand was part of a public records request through which the tribes are seeking all information and documents about the artifacts and how they are currently being stored, as a first step in understanding just what artifacts they want to be repatriated. The Feb. 23 letter to CalTrans was sent by the Sherwood Valley and Coyote Valley Band of Pomo, and the Round Valley Indian Tribes, the three tribes that by law had a formal role in cultural resource management on the bypass project, and requests a response by March 22.
Two of the tribes the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo and Round Valley Indian Tribes are also suing the CalTrans and the Federal Highways Administration over the lack of agreement over cultural resource management on the bypass. The handling of the artifacts, and who will manage them now that the project is completed, are the most pressing questions they are seeking answers to.
The letter is addressed to Mike Bartlett, who worked as CalTrans District 3 project manager on the Willits Bypass, and requests all public records concerning Native American cultural artifacts uncovered on the project, including all records concerning archeological finds within the project area, and information about how and where any artifacts are currently being stored. The letter also explains the first step in creating a tribal management plan for the objects is to have all the information and documents that have been requested.
It is signed by Chairman of the Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo Mike Knight, Chairman of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Michael Hunter, and President of the Round Valley Tribes James Russ.
Disagreements over CalTrans’ method of managing cultural resources during the Willits Bypass project lead to an ongoing conflict with the three tribes. The tribes allege that CalTrans did not adequately survey, identify, and then subsequently avoid damage to archeological finds found in the area, with at least one site destroyed.
In negotiations over the bypass the tribes have repeatedly requested that they be able to manage the artifacts, but CalTrans has not agreed to their return, instead proposing storage in an existing museum or elsewhere. CalTrans and the tribes were unable to reach an agreement over a management plan for the artifacts during construction.
In a March 3 press release, Priscilla Hunter of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo and tribally appointed representative for government-to-government consultations with CalTrans and the Federal Highways Administration, states:
“It was extremely traumatic when we could not stop Caltrans from knowingly desecrating our ancestral cultural sites in the construction of the Willits Bypass. At the very minimum, the artifacts unearthed there must be returned to the Tribes for curation. These artifacts are our cultural patrimony. While we recognize these items are also items of scientific interest to anthropological researchers, they are sacred to our Tribes. As California law requires, these artifacts must be returned to a tribally maintained repository, not a state, county, or private museum. All three Tribes are united in this request, so Caltrans should not plan on playing the time honored government game of divide and conquer between the Tribes.”
Here’s the full letter to Caltrans:
February 22, 2017
Mr. Mike Bartlett California Department of Transportation District 3
703 B Street
Marysville, CA 95901
RE: Willits Bypass Archaeological Records Request and Request for Repatriation of Archaeological Artifacts to the Tribes
Dear Mr. Bartlett.
Pursuant to the California Public Records Act (Gov. Code Section 6250, et seq.), the three federally recognized culturally affiliated Tribes listed below collaboratively request up-to-date archaeological records that were recovered from 2001-2016 that are in the possession, Custody, or Control of Caltrans. The archaeological records shall include, but not be limited to: inventory lists, field notes, photographs, Collections methods used, artifact data including the accession numbers assigned to artifacts, and any other associated notes and/or documents. We also request Complete information as to the specific locations where these artifacts are currently being stored, the manner in which they are being stored, and under whose supervision they are being stored.
Our three Tribes hereby formally and mutually request that all of these artifacts be repatriated to the Tribes. This requested information is a necessary first step to enable the Tribes to craft a Management Plan for the
Curation of the artifacts.
The Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo Indians, the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, and the Round Valley Indian Tribes make this request to ensure that informed decisions are made with regards to the physical stewardship of the Collected Cultural resource materials.
We look forward to receiving the requested information no later than March 22, 2017.
March 8, 2017 Kate B. Maxwell