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Nellis holds 11th annual Native American meeting

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- The 99th Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental Flight played host to the 11th annual meeting for the Nellis Air Force Base Native American Program June 1 at the Officers’ Club.

Representatives from 17 tribes in Arizona, Utah, California and Nevada attend the meeting each year to discuss the structure and development of Nellis, as well as the concerns and recommendations of the Native Americans who may be affected by such changes.

Col. Michael Bartley, 99th Air Base Wing commander, briefly went over the latest news at Nellis and the Nevada Test and Training Range, such as the expansion and growth of certain programs on base.

Also briefed at the meeting were archeological findings uncovered during a survey of the range.

Throughout each year, a team of archeologists along with a small group of Native American representatives head out to the Nevada Test and Training Range to survey the land for archeological sites, according to Keith Myhrer, Nellis’ senior archeologist.

Because the land belonged to the Native Americans long before Nellis was established, there are several sites that remain sacred and historic to the members and descendants of the tribes who had inhabited the area at one point.

The program, which was created in 1996, was developed to preserve those areas and to facilitate positive relations with the Native American community.

Mr. Myhrer has been involved in the program since it was established and, in that time, has developed a rapport with the Natives.

“It’s amazing how supportive they are of the military,” he said. “They love the Air Force and support the mission, but they just ask to be included in decisions that may affect their land and their heritage.”

Kami Sue Miller, chairman of the Moapa Paiutes, said, “I’ve seen the Native American Program from a secondary person’s point of view because my mother has been the cultural representative for years. The themes of each meeting get better with technology and the projects on the ancient sites on the range have improved dramatically. Projects presented in today’s presentations have advanced from beta technology to CDs and DVDs, making them critical in the preservation and documentation of our culture.”

Although programs like this have been established Air Force-wide, Nellis’ is the most comprehensive, and Nellis the only federal entitiy with this longevity and complexity for Native American participation.

“The law requires us to consult with the Native Americans because they were here before us, but regardless, it’s the right thing to do,” said Mr. Myhrer.

“This annual meeting is all about communicating, and as the wing commander, I pledge my support and commitment to continue this partnership,” said Colonel Bartley. “We are committed to the protection of the sacred sites on the NTTR, as well as the Air Force mission on the range.”

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