Hualapai tribe cites legal right to preserve cremated remains of ancestors on private lands

It is not a new problem for the Hualapai tribe.

Rock mining - for decorative rocks and boulders used for landscaping - in Hackberry, Crozier Canyon and Truxton along Route 66, close to the Hualapai Reservation near Peach Springs, has been going on since 1997 on private land.

But with each new rock mine that strips away more and more land between Hackberry and Truxton, the Hualapai tribe faces more than just the loss of natural landscape.

Hualapai tribal resource specialist Loretta Jackson said the area contains the cremated remains of Hualapai ancestors and should be afforded protection under state, federal and tribal laws.

"Back in the '80s we would take field trips to those areas," she said.

"We would visit the rock writing sites, which are sacred.

We never imagined these things we held in high esteem would be destroyed in the manner they are now."

Jackson said the tribal council has asked the landowners to stop mining along the Route 66 corridor between Kingman and Peach Springs, but to no avail.

"We know that the mining is taking place on private land, but we believe the mining should be stopped while we have an opportunity to inventory the burial sites in the area," she said.

Although state laws protect remains such as bones and funeral items at conventional Indian burial sites on private land, those laws don't address cremated remains placed in unmarked sites.

However, Jackson said the tribe has authority through the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 106, to protect and preserve its own historic resources, including cremation remains.

"That act gives us the authority to review reports outside the reservation," she said.

"Federal agencies must submit their reports to us.

...

Anything where federal money is being used initiates process 106."

Jackson, the acting environmental assessment officer at the Tribal Historic Preservation Office, said this means that if the tribe determines that there might be cultural concerns, they may have an impact on the project in question.

"We can let the agency sponsoring the project know, and they will redesign the project," she said.

"A lot of project proponents don't realize they have to consult with us.

I don't think they want to inadvertently discover ancestral human remains."

The problem is that landowners who are mining for decorative rocks and boulders in Crozier Canyon, Truxton, Peacock Mountain and Hackberry Wash along a 10-mile stretch of Route 66 won't stop the mining to allow Hualapai cultural experts the chance to inventory the burial sites in the area.

"The elders have talked about these remains," she said.

"They have pinpointed areas where these cremations have taken place."

Jackson also cited Arizona Revised Statute 841-45, which states archeological remains on private land must be reported.

Under this law anyone discovering aboriginal remains on private or state land is required to report the discovery to the state museum, which sets in motion a reburial process, Jackson said.

"We have asked permission to go on the private land to visit these sites, but were denied access," she said.

Jackson also can't understand why the tribe, which numbers about 2,000, has not received more support from government leaders in Mohave County regarding the problem.

"Their mining endeavors are desecrating the land along Route 66," she said.

"I would think they would want to preserve this historic stretch of road.

The Mohave General Plan specifically addresses the need to preserve views with natural settings, such as those provided along historic Route 66.

"Mohave County and the tribe depend on tourism, and all this area that was beautiful and unique is being destroyed."

Mohave County District 1 supervisor Pete Byers said that although he would like to do something to keep mining from destroying the scenic vista along Route 66, there is nothing he can do.

"I am looking into it when I can, but I haven't had much success," Byers said about the situation.

"As far as the Mohave County General Plan, it is just a plan, it is not law, and there are no zoning issues."

"It bothers me to see the mining going on there, but when I try to do something about it they send me to the state mine inspector."

Byers said he lived in Peach Springs for more than 20 years and baled hay in Crozier Canyon at his uncle's farm when he was a boy.

Meanwhile, Jackson said the tribal council plans to prove that the land in question is a historic site.

"My husband and I have two daughters, and my brothers and sisters live here.

My father taught us to value the cultural resources God has given us," she said.

"So our children, and our children's children will know their cultural heritage.

Will come to know this place and sing the songs."

Several attempts by the Kingman Daily to reach landowners for comments regarding this report were unsuccessful.