Updated: January 15, 2014 at 8:02 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Native American tribe that once lived in Arkansas but is now based in northeast Oklahoma signed an agreement Wednesday with the Arkansas National Guard that sets up procedures for dealing with historically significant sites or artifacts.
The agreement between the Quapaw Tribe and the guard will help the tribe protect sacred sites and resources of historical and cultural importance. The Quapaw Tribe lived in Arkansas for hundreds of years prior to it gaining statehood and the tribe's removal to northeast Oklahoma.
The memorandum of understanding calls for the Arkansas National Guard to host a consultation meeting with the tribe at least once every two years based on available funding, as well as involve the tribe in developing and implementing the cultural resources management plan in Arkansas.
"It's necessary because the Arkansas National Guard does different programs and jobs that might affect, they move dirt and dig holes, and it might affect historical cultural property," Quapaw Chairman John L. Berrey said in a phone interview.
Under the National Historical Preservation Act, federal agencies must consult and coordinate with tribes.
The Arkansas National Guard has not uncovered any artifacts relating to the Quapaw Tribe, but Berrey said there are discoveries happening every day, both from government agencies and private landowners.
A noteworthy discovery happened in 2007, when an American Indian village was found 4 feet below ground in northeast Arkansas. The site was where officials hoped to build a steel mill.
Berrey said the Quapaw Tribe has signed similar agreements with other federal agencies and other states, including the National Guards in Mississippi and Louisiana.
In 2012, the tribe joined other Native American tribes in signing an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers' Memphis district to formalize the handling of remains of Native American tribal members discovered in the Birds Point-New Madrid floodway in Missouri.
The agreement, which established protocols for handling the remains respectfully, came about after the remains of 25 pre-historic Mississippians were discovered after the levee was blown out following a flood of the Mississippi River.
"The history in these artifacts and graves are who we are. It's our history, and those are very important to the tribe," Berrey said.
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