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Organization Title

Environmental and Cultural Department

[Updated Tue 4/2/2019 3:09 PM and section on human remains added Wed 4/3/2019 5:13 PM]

The NAHC’s Environmental and Cultural Department staff includes:

Debbie Pilas-Treadway, Director

Kathryn Sanchez, Associate Environmental Planner

Rob Wood, Associate Environmental Planner (Retired Annuitant)

Lyta Winston, Associate Governmental Program Analyst (Retired Annuitant)

Gayle Totton, Associate Governmental Program Analyst

Steven Quinn, Associate Governmental Program Analyst

Staff Services Analyst (Vacant)

Nancy Lopez-Gonzales, Office Assistant

The Environmental and Cultural Department oversees the following functions:

Review of and Comment on California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Environmental Documents

The Environmental and Cultural Department staff review and comment on thousands California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental documents every year, including Notices of Preparation (NOP), Draft Environmental Impact Reports (DEIR), Mitigated Negative Declarations (MND), and Negative Declarations (ND) to inform CEQA lead agencies of their obligation to identify Native American cultural resources within their projects’ Areas of Potential Effects (APE) and avoid or mitigate impacts to those resources wherever possible.  Environmental and Cultural Department staff are assigned to counties for which they provide comments on environmental documents for projects within those counties.  Time and resources permitting the Environmental and Cultural Department staff also comment on federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental documents.  To assist CEQA and NEPA lead agencies in their environmental impact review processes, the NAHC also performs searches of its Sacred Lands Inventory for those agencies to alert them of the existence, but not the location, of Native American sacred sites in their projects’ Areas of Potential Effects (APE).

If you have concerns about the protection of Native American cultural resources within the APE of a project that is subject to CEQA environmental review or NEPA environmental review within California, please email the Environmental and Cultural Department at nahc@nahc.ca.gov.

Most Likely Descendants Identifications

One of the statutory duties of the NAHC is the identification of Most Likely Descendants (MLDs) when Native American human remains are inadvertently discovered on lands subject to the NAHC’s jurisdiction. (Public Resources Code section 5097.98).    MLDs make recommendations on treatment and disposition of Native American human remains to the landowner on whose property those remains have been found.  When ANY human remains, in whatever condition (disarticulated, intact, or cremated) are discovered on someone’s property, the following basic steps should be first followed:

[incorporated consistent text from message of Wed 4/3/2019 5:13 PM]

1. Call the County Coroner.  (Health and Safety Code section 7050.5).  The County Coroner, and not the NAHC, site archaeologists, monitors, or anyone else, determines that the remains are Native American for purposes of the NAHC’s jurisdiction.  If they are, the County Coroner will contact the NAHC.  The NAHC does not have jurisdiction to designate Most Likely Descendants until the County Coroner determines that the remains discovered are Native American.  The landowner shall ensure that the immediate vicinity of the remains, according to generally accepted cultural or archaeological standards or practices, is not damaged or disturbed further by development activity until the landowner has discussed and conferred with the Most Likely Descendants regarding their recommendations.  The coroner shall make his or her determination within two working days from the time when the person responsible for the excavation, or his or her authorized representative, notifies the coroner of the discovery or recognition of human remains.  If the coroner determines the remains are not subject to his or her authority and if the coroner recognizes the human remains to be those of a Native American or has reason to believe that there are those of a Native American, he or she shall contact the NAHC, by telephone, within 24 hours.

2. The NAHC Environmental and Cultural Staff will designate which California Native American Tribe on its Most Likely Descendants list is the Most Likely Descendant of the Native American whose remains were discovered and contact that Tribe.  (Public Resources Code sections 5097.94(a), 5097.98)

3. The Tribe designated as MLD will have 48 hours from the point at which they are granted access by the landowner of the property to where the remains were discovered to inspect the site where the remains were discovered and make recommendations or preferences for treatment know to the landowner.  The landowner shall discuss and confer with the MLDs all reasonable options regarding the MLDs preferences for treatment, which may include:

a. The nondestructive removal and analysis of human remains and items associated with the Native American human remains.
b. Preservation of the Native American human remains in place.
c. Relinquishment of the Native American human remains to the MLDS for treatment.
d. Other culturally appropriate treatment. (Public Resources Code section 5097.98). 

4. The parties may also agree to extend discussions, taking into account the possibility that additional or multiple Native American human remains are located in the project area, providing a basis for additional treatment. (Public Resources Code section 5097.98)

5. If the NAHC is unable to identify MLDs, the identified MLDs fail to make a recommendation, or the landowner or his or her authorized representative rejects the recommendations of the MLDs and the mediation provided for under Public Resources Code section 5097.98, subdivision (k), if invoked, fails to provide measures acceptable to the landowner, the landowner or his or her authorized representative shall reinter the human remains and items associated with Native American human remains with appropriate dignity on the property in a location not subject to further and future subsurface disturbance.  To protect these sites, the landowner shall do one or more of the following: 

(1) Record the site with the commission or the appropriate Information Center.

(2) Utilize an open-space or conservation zoning designation or easement.

(3) Record a document with the county in which the property is located. The document shall be titled “Notice of Reinterment of Native American Remains” and shall include a legal description of the property, the name of the owner of the property, and the owner’s acknowledged signature, in addition to any other information required by this section. The document shall be indexed as a notice under the name of the owner. (Public Resources Code section 5097.98)

For more detailed information on the roles and responsibilities of MLDs and landowners under Public Resources Code section 5097.98, please read Public Resources Code section 5097.98 here.

Sacred Lands Inventory Maintenance and Searches

The NAHC’s Sacred Lands Inventory is a CONFIDENTIAL catalog of Native American sacred and cultural sites on public and private lands.  It is authorized in statute by Public Resources Code section 5097.94 (a), which authorizes the NAHC “to identify and catalog places of special religious or social significance to Native Americans, and known graves and cemeteries of Native Americans on private lands,” and Public Resources Code section 5097.95, which authorizes the NAHC to “prepare an inventory of Native American sacred places that are located on public lands.”  CEQA lead agencies that are conducting an environmental review of a proposed project prior to granting a permit or license for that project typically request a search of the Sacred Lands Inventory as part of the CEQA environmental review process to determine if a project has an impact on Native American cultural resources.  If a Sacred Lands Inventory search reveals that a Native American cultural resource is in a project area, the NAHC DOES NOT PROVIDE THE NAME OR LOCATION OF THE SITES.  Instead, the NAHC provides the requesting party a list of the California Native American Tribes on its AB 52/SB 18 Tribal Consultation Lists that are traditionally and culturally affiliated to the project area so that the CEQA lead agency may consult with the Tribes to discuss avoidance, preservation in place, or mitigation of impacts to any Native American cultural resources in a project area.

The NAHC’s Sacred Lands Inventory is maintained by the Environmental and Cultural Department staff, all of whom are required to sign non-disclosure agreements, and is not accessible to other NAHC staff, other agencies, or the public.  California Native American Tribes on the Environmental and Cultural Department’s Tribal Contact List may contact the Environmental and Cultural Department to submit information about sites that should be included on the Sacred Lands Inventory.

Most Likely Descendants, AB 52, SB 18, and Tribal Contact Lists

The Environmental and Cultural Department maintains the following lists for the purposes of tribal consultation and/or cultural resources assessment:

  • Most Likely Descendants Lists: This list consists of California Native American tribes that meet the criteria to be on the SB 18 tribal consultation list.  The purpose of the list is to designate a tribe or tribes to serve as Most Likely Descendants (MLDs) for making recommendations as to treatment and disposition of Native American human remains found in their area of traditional and cultural affiliation.
  • AB 52 and SB 18 Lists: The AB 52 amendments to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) define “California Native American Tribe” for purposes of tribal consultation under CEQA as a “Native American tribe located in California that is on the contact list maintained by the NAHC for the purposes of Chapter 905 of the Statutes of 2004,” also known as SB 18.  SB 18 provides for tribal consultation between local governments and tribes that are traditionally and culturally affiliated to the area where the local government is located when the local government adopts or amends a general plan, or a specific plan, or makes an open space designation.  The Environmental and Cultural Department maintains an AB 52/SB 18 list of California Native American tribes located in California, and the purpose of the list is for tribal consultation on Native American cultural resources.
  • Tribal Contact List: The Tribal Contact List consists of California Native American Tribes on the AB 52/SB 18 list, Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, and tribal Cultural Resources Departments and it is for the purposes of cultural resources assessment.

Training

The Environmental and Cultural Department provides free trainings to county coroners on their role in the treatment and disposition of Native American human remains under Health and Safety Code section 7050.5 and the Most Likely Descendants’ Statute, Public Resources Code section 5097.98, and to Tribes, CEQA lead agencies, property owners, law enforcement, developers, planners, and archaeologists on compliance with the Most Likely Descendants Statute.

Agendas and Minutes (link to homepage)