NEW ORLEANS–(ENEWSPF)–September 23, 2010. An historic government-to-government tribal consultation was held in New Orleans Sept. 17, 2010. Initiated and hosted by Federal On-Scene Coordinator Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, the meeting was the largest of several inter-governmental consultations between federally recognized American Indian tribes and the federal government to discuss the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill response.
Tribal leaders from as far as Oklahoma and Texas attended the meeting, and included representatives from the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, and legal counsel for United Southern and Eastern Tribes (USET). The Seminole Tribe of Florida also attended the meeting by phone.
One of the main purposes of the meeting was to continue formal consultation and dialogue with federally recognized tribes on the protection of historic properties, traditional cultural properties, and tribal lands that may be affected by the oil spill and response. A total of 25 American Indian tribes are potentially affected by the spill.
Twelve tribal leaders and representatives of six distinct tribal nations attended.
Zukunft briefed the nation tribes on the history of the spill response, and conveys his commitment to protect historic properties that may be affected by the spill and response. Historic properties include ancient archaeological sites, shipwrecks, isolated artifacts, fortifications and structures, and traditional cultural properties. The admiral also provided an overview of the federal government’s obligation and commitment to implement and uphold Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and other federal laws that protect historic properties and tribal interests. The consultation was coordinated by the National Park Service and led by the Assistant Associate Director of Cultural Resources, Dr. Dan Odess.
Continued consultation fosters greater communication between the response and the tribes. In addition to participating in response discussion making tribal monitors accompany shoreline clean-up assessment teams, beach clean-up crews, boom retrieval operations and participate in the planning and review process for Section 106.
The Sept. 17th all-day meeting commenced with a traditional tribal blessing, asking for wisdom, guidance and safe travels for all participants. Charles Coleman of the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town presented Zukunft with an award and a Thlopthlocco Tribal Town coin, and 2nd Chief Alfred Berryhill of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma presented tribal pins. Zukunft presented all tribal members with traditional admiral coins.
Since the beginning of the response, federal partners have engaged Native American tribes on issues related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. USDA hosted specific tribal calls early in the response to discuss various programs available. Tribal leaders were engaged in various agency meetings, and the White House began weekly Native American outreach calls to discuss the spill response as well as claims processes and to answer questions. DHS continues to host weekly calls with tribal leaders.