Grijalva, House Democrats Discuss Importance of Preserving the Stories of All Americans with Historic and Cultural Preservation Experts

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), joined by Indian and Insular Affairs Subcommittee Ranking Member Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), Committee Vice Ranking Member Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.), Rep. Seth Magaziner (D-R.I.), and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), held a roundtable titled, “Strengthening Historic and Cultural Preservation” to discuss how Congress can ensure that preservation efforts are better supported and resourced to protect the diverse historic and cultural legacy of all Americans.

WATCH the recorded livestream of the roundtable.

“The stories, places, and resources we choose to protect are a reflection of our country’s values,” said Ranking Member Grijalva. “But for too long, tribal communities and other underserved communities have been left out of the conversation when it comes to historic and cultural preservation. We have a moral obligation, as well as a trust responsibility to tribes, to ensure that preservation efforts are fully resourced to adequately protect the diverse historic and cultural legacy of all Americans. I’m grateful to our expert panelists for their important work and for bringing to light the ever-increasing threats of climate change and permitting exemptions to historic and cultural preservation. I look forward to continuing this conversation and engaging my colleagues on meaningful, inclusive policy solutions.”

“These issues are things that we hold dear,” said Rep. Leger Fernández. “Because we know that America is stronger when we know all the stories, when we know the stories that began here—the Native American stories, the Latino stories, the AAPI, the Black history of what has happened here. Because I think that in these moments of stress that we are going through right now, where our democracy is under stress, we are better off when we understand the difficulties, because it is about us overcoming those difficulties, and it is about that future that we can see because of our difficult past and how we’ve overcome.”

"Our Indigenous communities, alongside other marginalized groups, have not had their histories, cultures, and stories prioritized in preservation efforts, leaving us with an incomplete knowledge of US history,” said Rep. Stansbury. “I’m grateful to Ranking Member Grijalva for hosting this important roundtable, and I’m honored to join my colleagues to discuss what we can do to adequately resource preservation efforts for the history and cultural legacy of all Americans.”

“I was glad to join my fellow Members and subject-matter experts for today’s roundtable on the importance of historic and cultural preservation for our Indigenous communities,” said Rep. Kamlager-Dove. “As Vice Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee, I will continue to work with my colleagues to enact policies that tell the story of all Americans while allowing us to confront our nation’s dark history of injustice against Indigenous groups. Successful policy will center self-determination, address systemic barriers, and preserve sacred lands. We must honor the stories of Indigenous communities and the more than 500 Federally recognized tribes across our nation, including the more than 100 in my state of California.”

“We have been blessed with tremendous historical housing stock in Rhode Island, particularly colonial-era housing on the coast, that is now directly threatened by sea level rise and climate change,” said Rep. Magaziner. “And what’s great about some of these areas is, not only do they have this incredible housing stock which drives tourism and hospitality in our economy, but these are neighborhoods that people still live in. These are not theme parks; there is direct line to the modern day as well. So, incorporating climate resiliency into our historic preservation planning is absolutely vital.”

“I welcome Ranking Member Grijalva’s leadership in putting together this conversation about how best to safeguard and elevate our historic and cultural sites,” said Rep. Beyer. “As a proud resident in the National Historic District of Alexandria, Virginia – I am blessed to live in history. I am glad for the opportunity to stress the importance of providing the resources we need to protect our national and historical treasures for future generations.”

Panelist Quotes and Statements

On the impacts of climate change on historic and cultural preservation, the Honorable Sara C. Bronin, Chair, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, said, “Consider the Statue of Liberty, closed for 8 months following Superstorm Sandy; the Alaska Native town of Newtok, entirely relocated due to sea level rise; and Lahaina in Hawai’i, decimated by wildfire. Contemporary conversations about climate change often overlook how it is already disrupting our connections to our past and cultural heritage. With that context, I will make my first ask: that we work together to draft legislation creating a climate heritage office. We must be an international leader in this sphere. A U.S. climate heritage office could help us modernize approaches to disaster, develop creative mitigation and adaptation strategies, and fortify historic infrastructure.”

CLICK HERE to read Hon. Sara C. Bronin’s full written statement.

On the importance of the Antiquities Act, Shaw Sprague, Vice President for Government Relations, National Trust for Historic Preservation, said, “In addition to our support for congressional designations, the National Trust has long engaged in work to support the Antiquities Act of 1906—our nation’s oldest law protecting historic, prehistoric, and scientific features on public lands that has enabled 18 presidents from both political parties to swiftly protect historic sites and culturally important lands. By establishing new national monuments or enlarging existing ones, our leaders have preserved precious places for future generations to experience and enjoy.”

CLICK HERE to read Mr. Shaw Sprague’s full written statement.

On the importance of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs), the Honorable Reno Keoni Franklin, Chairman, Kashia Band of Pomo Indians of the Stewarts Point Rancheria, National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (NATHPO), said, “The establishment of new THPOs is so important because THPOs play a vital role in addressing the generational trauma that Tribal Nations have experienced. One of the best ways to address trauma caused by attacks on Tribal Nations’ cultures is to preserve and protect those cultures. The work that THPOs do is not just about ‘preserving the story of Tribal Nations,’ it is also a celebration of vibrant culture that is alive and strong, despite the concerted effort of the US government and settlers to destroy it.”

CLICK HERE to read Hon. Reno Keoni Franklin’s full written statement.

On the limitations of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) to protect tribal resources and sites, Dr. Shasta Gaughen, Chair, NATHPO, and Environmental Director and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Pala Band of Mission Indians, said, “While Oak Flat and Thacker Pass have received attention from the media, there are many other places that are sacred to Tribal Nations that have been destroyed or are threatened because the existing laws do not offer adequate protections. In particular, the NHPA was not written with Tribal Nations’ sacred sites in mind. We need a law with the flexibility to stop a project if the damage or destruction to a Tribe’s sacred places is too great. Besides working on legislation that truly protects Tribal Nations’ sacred places, we need enactment of laws that recognize the breadth of the work that THPOs do–including repatriation and language revitalization–and the important role Tribal knowledge and expertise should play in the consultation process.”

CLICK HERE to read Dr. Shasta Gaughen’s full written statement.

On efforts to shortcut projects through permitting and environmental review processes, Erik Hein, Executive Director, National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, said, “In an effort to ‘speed up’ the review process, sometimes we see bills introduced to ‘exempt’ certain projects or mandate certain review timeframes. Currently, for example, there are several industry-backed bills that would seek to eliminate Section 106 reviews for certain broadband or other telecom projects. In our view, these bills attempt to achieve short-term wins instead of addressing the underlying funding and resource challenges at the heart of project review delays – and at the expense of the collaborative process envisioned by the NHPA.”

CLICK HERE to read Mr. Erik Hein’s full written statement.

Press Contact

Lindsay Gressard