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Historic agreement signed at Ziibiwing Center

Observer Staff

1/25/2005 12:00:00 AM

An alliance of Michigan Tribes inked an agreement with a federal agency to ensure the protection and preservation of Native American remains and traditional properties of sacred and cultural importance.

Representatives from the Michigan Anishinaabek Cultural Protection and Repatriation Alliance-which consists of Michigan's 12 federally-recognized Tribes and the two state historic Tribes-met with officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service at the Ziibiwing Center for Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways April 22 for the action.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is the first federal agency to enter into a formal agreement with MACPRA.

"We acknowledge the significance of cultural resources found in many locations throughout Michigan," stated Ron Williams, the Michigan state conservationist for the agency. "We are committed to the protection of culturally important resources and repatriation of Native remains by MACPRA in Michigan. With this formal process in place, we can more effectively notify Tribal leaders, investigate findings and in the case of inadvertent discoveries-expedite the removal of these resources and return them to their protectors."

A significant number of Native remains and cultural or sacred items are accidentally unearthed by landowners applying conservation practices to protect natural resources. The lack of a formal process between private landowners and Tribal entities for the protection of remains and sacred objects has created difficulties in the past with the repatriation process.

"We look forward to working with the USDA-NRCS on issues regarding the protection of Tribal cultural properties," stated MACPRA Chairperson Cecil Pavlat. "We are very pleased that the USDA-NRCS recognizes and acknowledges the nation-to-nation relationship that exists between Tribal organizations and U.S. governmental agencies. The cooperative effort of both parties should be applauded and recognized as an example for other similar agreements in the future."