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Inventory of the Native American Heritage Commission Records
R188, F3908:1-61, and F3803:1-2  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Agency History
  • Scope and Content
  • Accruals
  • Organization
  • Subjects
  • Related Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Native American Heritage Commission Records
    Dates: 1964-1991
    Collection number: R188, F3908:1-61, and F3803:1-2
    Creator: Native American Heritage Commission
    Collection Size: 17.5 cubic feet
    Repository: California State Archives
    Sacramento, California
    Abstract: The records of the Native American Heritage Commission and its predecessors, the California Indian Assistance Program, document California's efforts to address Native American concerns and issues in California. This record group contains 17.5 cubic feet of textual and photographic records covering the period 1964-1991 and includes requests for assistance, meeting and event files, reference materials, correspondence, legislation files, subject files, project files, and administrative files.
    Physical location: California State Archives
    Language: English

    Administrative Information

    Access

    While the majority of the records are open for research, any access restrictions are noted in the record series descriptions.

    Publication Rights

    For permission to reproduce or publish, please consult California State Archives staff. Permission for reproduction or publication is given on behalf of the California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility for possible infringement that may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the California State Archives' collections.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Native American Heritage Commission Records, R188.[series number], [box and folder number], California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, California.

    Agency History

    In the 1970s, it was becoming apparent with the increasing number of land development project, which were encroaching upon archaeological sites and places of special significance to Native Americans, that an agency at the state level could be of assistance in preservation and protection of those sites. In 1973 and 1974, the California Indian Assistance Program functioned under the Governor's Office of Planning and Research. The program sought to find workable solutions to urban, rural, and reservation Indians problems; maintain and improve the communication network between people and organizations interested in the advancement of the Native American; and encourage self-sufficiency for tribal organizations and individuals. More specifically, the program coordinated state programs with federal and local program to insure maximum benefit from available resources, worked to prepare a state plan and development policy for federal trust land and establish a clearinghouse for Indian assistance programs.
    In late 1975, a conference was held to develop legislation to create an autonomous governmental body whose authority would encompass protection of Native American cemeteries and sacred places. The result of this conference was Assembly Bill 4239 (Chapter 1332, Statutes of 1976) authored by Assembly Member John Knox. Chapter 1332 created the Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC). The NAHC consists of nine members appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. At least five of the nine members must be elders, traditional people, or spiritual leaders of the California Native American tribes, nominated by Native American organizations, tribes, or groups within the state. The Governor appoints the executive secretary of the commission.
    The newly formed NAHC made recommendations to the Legislature about the protection of significant Indian religious and social site and assisted Native Americans in obtaining access to significant religious and social sites. Additionally, the NAHC made recommendations to the Department of Parks and Recreation and the California Arts Council about programs of assistance to Native Americans. The NAHC also assisted state agencies in negotiations with federal agencies for the protection of sacred sites located on federal land. If necessary, the NAHC had the authority to bring legal action to prevent severe or irreparable damage to sacred sites or ceremonial places located on public land.
    It soon became apparent that California law did not sufficiently protect Native American burial areas. Thus, Senator John Garamendi introduced Senate Bill 297 in 1981 to provide this protection (Chapter 1492, Statutes of 1982). The new statute allowed the NAHC to identify and catalog known Native American cemeteries and authorized the commission to resolve disputes relating to the treatment and disposition of Native American human burials, skeletal remains, and items associated with Native American burials. The statute also required the commission to contact those persons believed to be the most likely descendent from the deceased Native American upon notification by a county coroner that human remains had been discovered.
    The Native American Heritage Commission's duties are 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. The commission can then make recommendations relative to Native American sacred places that are located on private lands, are inaccessible to Native Americans, and have cultural significance to Native Americans for acquisition by the state or other public agencies for the purpose of facilitating or assuring access by Native Americans. The NAHC makes recommendations to the legislature relative to procedures, which will voluntarily encourage private property owners to preserve and protect sacred places in a natural state and to allow appropriate access to Native American religionists for ceremonial or spiritual activities.

    Scope and Content

    The records of the Native American Heritage Commission and its predecessors, the California Indian Assistance Program, document California's efforts to address Native American concerns and issues in California. This record group contains 17.5 cubic feet of textual and photographic records covering the period 1964-1991 and includes requests for assistance, meeting and event files, reference materials, correspondence, legislation files, subject files, project files, and administrative files.
    The record group also contains records that date prior to the establishment of the Native American Heritage Commission in 1976. Some records of the California Indian Assistance Program within the State Office of Planning and Research have been preserved with the records of the Native American Heritage Commission presumably because they were transferred to the Commission soon after its commencement.
    The Commission's files show their attempts to intermediate between developers and archaeologists, whose objectives would result in the destruction of cemeteries and other sites, and Native Americans, who want these sacred places preserved in their entirety in their original locations. The Commission also sought to find exemptions to state and federal laws to enable Native Americans to preserve not just the remains of their ancestors, but to preserve their culture by continuing to perform traditions and ceremonies and pass them on to future generations. The records of the Native American Heritage Commission provide a glimpse into the thoughts and concerns of Native Americans in California during the 1970s and 1980s. This is a significant time when for the first time the concerns of this cultural group were allowed to be expressed and demanded to be heard by the government.
    The narrow focus of the Native American Heritage Commission resulted in several record series that contain overlapping subject matter and themes: protection of Native American sites and remains. The Subject Files, Administrative Files, Requests for Assistance and Project Files all contain similar document types: correspondence, reports, news clippings, environmental assessment documents, and maps. Their final arrangement was based on the original organization set by the Native American Heritage Commission and was preserved during processing by the State Archives. Consequently, the files within each series the files are arranged differently: chronologically, alphabetically by subject, and alphabetically by county.

    Accruals

    Further accruals are expected.

    Organization

    This record group is organized into nine series: Correspondence of the California Indian Assistance Program, Requests for Assistance, Reference Materials, Correspondence, Legislation Files, Subject Files, Project Files, Administrative Files, and Meeting and Event Files.

    Subjects

    California. Native American Heritage Commission
    Indians of North America
    Indians of North America Antiquities Law and legislation

    Related Material

    Records of the State Advisory Commission on Indian Affairs and the California Indian Assistance Project