Since the American Revolution, Native Americans have fought in every United States war, serving as comrades, Soldiers and servicemembers.
Since 2007, Fort Bragg has maintained a memoranda of understanding, or agreement, with Native Americans, said Linda Carnes-McNaughton, archaeologist and curator with the Fort Bragg Cultural Resources Management Team. The first memoranda included the Catawba (which means people of the river), Tuscarora, Chickasaw and Thlopthlocco tribes.
The MoU recognizes that Fort Bragg has been home to historic landscapes and artifacts long before it became a modern military training ground.
Many tribes have ancestral lands that overlap each other and sometimes may not fully agree on standard operating procedures for Soldier training, civil works and engineering on historic land.
To facilitate communication, Fort Bragg has a MoU that notifies and brings the tribes together to deal with archeological discoveries made on the installation, said Dr. Wenonah G. Haire, tribal historic preservation officer of the Catawba nation.
Besides the Catawba, other nations invited to consult with Fort Bragg have been the Muscogee Creek, Shawnee, and the United Keetoowah Band.
The latest MoU consultation was held June 18 to 20. In keeping with federal law, only federally recognized nations were included.
“CRMP and command work with state-recognized tribes, descendant groups and other indigenous populations in many other ways to establish partnerships and to protect the cultural resources located on Fort Bragg,” said Carnes-McNaughton.
Some recent activities have included the creation and placement of exhibits at the Tuscarora Reservation in Maxton, N.C. Other activities include participation in Indian Heritage Day at Fort Bragg; and conducting interviews with the Lumbee tribe for the Voices of Sandhills, an educational video exploring the settlement of the area by Native Americans and their descendants.
These endeavors are vital to Fort Bragg’s future development.
“We want to make sure that while progress is being made, it doesn’t bulldoze our history,” said Haire.
CRMP is responsible for historic archaeological sites, landscapes and artifacts found on Fort Bragg.
Upon notification of an archeological find, it is deferred to a tribe that has more of a history in the area said Roy Baldridge, treasurer, Shawnee tribe.
Once notified, the intent is not to impede development, but rather to ensure documentation of the site, explained Haire. Buildings and training can be routed around the site, so the Army becomes de facto stewards of history.
“It’s not like a scavenger hunt; find the item and then give it away. It’s more important to note that this is a site and to leave it undisturbed because once it’s disturbed, you don’t get a do-over,” Haire added.
Recent discoveries on Fort Bragg include the Wilmore Cache, or arrowhead blanks, found in 2011, and the Clovis point find of March 2012.
The Wilmore Cache was buried more than 2,000 years before its discovery and contains about 180 pieces.
The Clovis point is made of rhyolite (volcanic rock) and may have been used as a knife or spear.
Over time, Fort Bragg has not failed in its commitment to preserving Native American history, Haire said.
MoU’s last for about five years, but because elected leaders serve for different terms, Fort Bragg officials have agreed to revisit the MoU in two years, said Bill Harris, chief of the Catawba nation.
“They (Fort Bragg) genuinely care about historic preservation and about doing the right thing, and it’s not a check-off list,” Haire said.
“As a nation-within-a-nation, we are very proud to have tribal members who have served in the armed services, so we’re right there with them. They need to get adequate training so that they can come home safe, and it doesn’t have to be at the expense of the life of a Soldier versus cultural heritage — they both can be accomplished.”
For more information on historic preservation on Fort Bragg, visit http://sustainablefortbragg.com/cultural-resources/.