About the Native American Heritage Commission
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.
Furthermore, 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.
Commissioner Laura Miranda, NAHC Chairperson
Tribal Affairs Consultant, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians (Temecula)
Tribal Affiliation: Luiseño
Commissioner Miranda is a tribal attorney specializing in environmental and tribal advocacy focusing on tribal cultural resources protection. She is a member of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, has a B.A. in philosophy from UCLA and a J.D. from Cornell Law School. Ms. Miranda has served on the State of California Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC) since 2007 and is currently Chairperson of the NAHC.
Over the past 20 years of advocating for tribal governments, Ms. Miranda has held the positions of Directing Attorney with California Indian Legal Services, Deputy General Counsel with the Pechanga Tribal Government and Adjunct Faculty at UCLA Law School.
Ms. Miranda’s most notable accomplishment is the protection of her Tribe’s creation area, Pu’éska Mountain, through an extended arduous legal and political battle (2005-2010). This experience exposed deficiencies in sacred sites protection laws for tribes. This led Ms. Miranda and Pechanga to push for changes in the law and eventually the passage of AB 52 (2014), sponsored by Assemblymember Gatto, which added Native American Tribes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Ms. Miranda served as a main technical advisor to the Assembly member.
Ms. Miranda’s additional accomplishments include legislative work on a number of cultural resources protection laws, including AB 2641 (2006) sponsored by Assemblymember Coto which focused on Native American human remains and multiple human remains, both bills sponsored by Senator Burton to protect sacred sites – SB 1828 (2002) and SB 18 (2003), and AB 978 (2001) California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (Cal-NAGPRA) sponsored by Assemblyman Steinberg. Ms. Miranda is also a member of the UCLA Repatriation Committee.
Ms. Miranda believes in creative problem solving, the opportunities conflicts can present, and active-listening conflict resolution. With this as her road map she has been successful in negotiating numerous agreements and settlements on behalf of tribes with land developers and other government agencies.
Ms. Miranda presently resides in Los Angeles where she enjoys dancing, yoga and meditation. Ms. Miranda is also involved with issues concerning cultural trauma and has been actively engaged over the last 10 years with her personal healing.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Commissioner Miranda to the Native American Heritage Commission on November 14, 2007.
Commissioner Reginald Pagaling, NAHC Vice Chairperson
Tribal Elder, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians
Tribal Affiliation: Chumash
Commissioner Pagaling is an enrolled member of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and a tribal elder. He has devoted his time to re-establishing the traditional maritime culture of the Tribe since 1996, and has also served as chairman of the Indian Gaming Local Community Benefit Committee of Santa Barbara County since 2010. Pagaling was tribal education program coordinator for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians from 1993 to 1996. He was public relations manager for the Chumash Casino Resort from 1991 to 1993 and was cultural resources coordinator and Native American monitor at the Tribal Elders Council of Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians from 1988 to 1990. Pagaling built the Tomol “Muptami of Kalawashaq,” a traditional Chumash plank canoe, and co-organizes the annual Tomol crossing from Channel Islands Harbor to Santa Cruz Island. Pagaling is a member of the Chumash Maritime Association.
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. appointed Commissioner Pagaling to the Native American Heritage Commission on March 28, 2013.
Commissioner Merri Lopez-Keifer, NAHC Secretary
Tribal Member, San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians
Tribal Affiliation: Luiseno
Commissioner Merri Lopez-Keifer is a member of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians. Commissioner Lopez-Keifer graduated from U.C. Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Art’s degree in Law and Society, with special emphasis in Criminal Justice. She earned her Juris Doctor degree from Boston College Law School and became a member of the California State Bar Association in 1998. Commissioner Lopez-Keifer began her legal career first as an attorney with Karshmer & Associates in Berkeley, CA, a law firm committed to Native American tribal government self-determination and providing Native American tribes and tribal organizations with the highest quality of legal services. Later, when an opportunity to become an Assistant District Attorney with the City and County of San Francisco’s District Attorney’s Office was presented, Commissioner Lopez-Keifer seized the opportunity and was a dedicated trial litigator for the District Attorney’s Office for six years. As an Assistant District Attorney, Commissioner Lopez-Keifer was passionate, fair-minded and effective prosecutor who specialized in domestic violence prosecutions. From 1998-2020, Commissioner Lopez-Keifer also served the Chief Legal Counsel for the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians. Commissioner Lopez-Keifer focused her legal skills ardently and efficaciously advocating for the protection and preservation of her tribe’s Native American tribal cultural resources, sacred places and burial grounds. Commissioner Lopez-Keifer was also instrumental in building and maintaining meaningful relationships with local, state, and federal government agencies within her tribe’s traditionally and culturally affiliated territory on behalf of her tribe. In her former role as San Luis Rey’s Chief Legal Counsel, Commissioner Lopez-Keifer successfully conducted hundreds of government-to-government consultations with CEQA lead agencies, local governments, state government agencies, and federal government agencies.
Commissioner Lopez-Keifer has been a keen educator and contributing panelist for many trainings and seminars on how to effectively and respectfully consult with California Native American tribes for organizations including the California State Bar Association- Environmental Law Section, the American Planning Association of California, the California Historic Society, the California Preservation Foundation, CLE International, the Bar Association of San Francisco- Environmental Law Section of, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, CalTrans, the Society for California Archaeology, the California Indian Lawyers Association, and the Association of Environmental Professionals. Commissioner Lopez-Keifer was also given the esteemed honor of presenting the keynote address for the 31st Annual California Indian Conference held at San Diego State University in 2016.
In 2017, Commissioner Lopez-Keifer served as an Advisory Committee Member for the development of the National Indian Justice Center’s Tribal Consultation Toolkit, an educational tool for tribes that consists of a sample consultation protocol template, a sample consultation flow chart, and a list of best practices for consultation.
In 2019, Commissioner Lopez-Keifer began serving as the Vice-Chairperson to the University of California, Office of the President’s inaugural Native American Advisory Council in her capacity as a member of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians. In addition, Commissioner Lopez-Keifer was appointed as a member of the California Indian Legal Services Board of Trustees and served as a member of the Advisory Board for the University of California Critical Mission Studies Project- Rewriting the History of California’s Missions.
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. appointed Commissioner Lopez-Keifer to the Native American Heritage Commission on June 1 , 2015.
Commissioner Russell Attebery, NAHC Parliamentian
Chairman, Karuk Tribe
Tribal Affiliation: Karuk
Commissioner Attebery has been council chairman of the Karuk Tribe of California since 2012. He was a teacher and athletic director at Happy Camp High School from 2009 to 2012, substitute teacher for Shasta County Schools from 2003 to 2008 and quality control supervisor and sawyer at Sierra Pacific Industries from 1982 to 2003. Attebery is a member of the American Professional Baseball Association.
Commissioner Attebery received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Sacramento State University in 1974 and his Lifetime Clear Teaching Credential from Humboldt State University in 1981 through the Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP).
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. appointed Commissioner Attebery to the Native American Heritage Commission on May 29, 2014.
Commissioner William (Bill) Mungary, NAHC Commissioner
Director of Kern County Community Development Program, retired (Bakersfield)
Tribal Affiliation: Paiute/White Mountain Apache
Commissioner Mungary retired as the Director of the Community Development Program, Resource Management Agency of Kern County, a position he held for over 30 years. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations Curriculum and Masters in Business Administration in General Management from the University of California at Los Angeles. He served in the US Air Force and achieved the rank of Captain.
Mr. Mungary is on the Board of Directors of the National Association for County Community and Economic Development and founding member of the American Indian Council of Central California, Inc., California Association for Local Economic Development, and the Native American Heritage Preservation Council of Kern County, where he served on the Board of Directors from 1991-1995. He was a member of the Cultural Resources and Economic Development Committees of the Federal Advisory Council of California Indian Policy and the Committee on Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Implementation for the California Department of Parks and Recreation. In March of 1995, Governor Wilson appointed Mr. Mungary to serve as a member of the California Rural Development Council.
Governor George Deukmejian appointed Commissioner William (Bill) Mungary of Bakersfield to the Native American Heritage Commission on December 17, 1987. Mr. Mungary served as the NAHC Chairperson from 1990-2008.
Commissioner Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, NAHC Commissioner
Chairperson, Barbareno/Ventureno Band of Mission Indians (Ojai)
Tribal Affiliation: Chumash
Commissioner Tumamait-Stenslie has traced her family lineage from her father Vincent Tumamait to at least 11 known Chumash villages and as far back as the mid-18th Century. She is currently the Tribal Chair of the Barbareño/Ventureño Band of Mission Indians (Chumash) and a member of the Board of Trustees for the Ojai Valley Historical Society, the Board of Trustees and California Indian Advisory Committee for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Committee on the “repatriation” of Native American ceremonial artifacts.
Ms. Tumamait-Stenslie has worked as a cultural resources consultant from Malibu to Santa Barbara to the Channel Islands, providing guidance for private groups and state, county and city regulatory agencies, including the Ventura and Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s offices. She is well known throughout Ventura County and beyond for her Chumash cultural education programs and also performs ceremonies according to her native ways, such as weddings, burials, naming ceremonies and blessings. She continues to act as the Spiritual Advisor for the California State University at Channel Islands where she was asked to present the benediction for the first graduation commencement in 2004.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Commissioner Tumamait-Stenslie to the Native American Heritage Commission on November 14, 2007.
Commissioner – Vacant
Commissioner – Vacant
Commissioner – Vacant
Nine Commissioners make a full quorum.
Christina Snider, Executive Secretary
Native American Heritage Commission AND
Governor’s Tribal Advisor, Office of the Governor
Tribal Affiliation: Pomo
Christina Snider serves as Tribal Advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom and Executive Secretary of the Native American Heritage Commission. Christina’s work focuses primarily on tribal law and policy, with experience in tribal tax, economic development, gaming, child welfare, juvenile justice, cultural resource protection, voting rights and government relations at the state and federal levels. She is an enrolled member of the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians.
Christina received her law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2013, and is licensed to practice law in California and the District of Columbia. She has served as a law clerk at the Office of Tribal Justice at the United States Department of Justice and the Hualapai Court of Appeals, and worked with the Wishtoyo Foundation/Ventura Coastkeeper as a legal fellow, the National Congress of American Indians as a staff attorney, Ceiba Legal, LLP as of counsel and the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians as an ICWA representative. Christina received her Bachelor’s Degree in History from the University of California, Los Angeles.