NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE COMMISSION HISTORY
In 1976, the California State Government passed
AB 4239, establishing the Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC)
as the primary government agency responsible for identifying and
cataloging Native American cultural resources. Up until this point,
there had been little government participation in the protection
of California’s cultural resources. As such, one of the NAHC’s primary
duties, as stated in AB 4239, was to prevent irreparable damage
to designated sacred sites, as well as to prevent interference with
the expression of Native American religion in California.
the bill authorized the Commission to act in order to prevent damage
to and insure Native American access to sacred sites. Moreover,
the Commission could request that the court issue an injunction
for the site, unless it found evidence that public interest and
necessity required otherwise.
In addition, the bill authorized the
commission to prepare an inventory of Native American sacred sites
located on public lands and required the commission to review current
administrative and statutory protections accorded to such sites.
In 1982, legislation was passed authorizing the Commission to identify
a Most Likely Descendant (MLD) when Native American human remains
were discovered any place other than a dedicated cemetery. MLDs
were granted the legal authority to make recommendations regarding
the treatment and disposition of the discovered remains. These recommendations,
although they cannot halt work on the project site, give MLDs a
means by which to ensure that the Native American human remains
are treated in the appropriate manner.
Today, the NAHC provides
protection to Native American human burials and skeletal remains
from vandalism and inadvertent destruction. It also provides a legal
means by which Native American descendents can make known their
concerns regarding the need for sensitive treatment and disposition
of Native American burials, skeletal remains, and items associated
with Native American burials.
The following is a list of the present, original and former Executive Secretary’s and Commissioners for the NAHC:
James Ramos, Chairperson
Laura Miranda, Vice Chairperson
Original Executive Secretary
Original Members of the Commission
Jay Johnson, Chairperson
Former Executive Secretaries
William J. Pink
Former Members of the Commission
Joseph H. Stauss
Wanda Lee Graves
Edward Albert Jr.