CILS can assist tribes and tribally designated “Most Likely Descendants” (MLD) who are contacted by the California Native American Heritage Commission, government agency, or private landowner on the discovery of cultural resources affiliated with the tribe.

Cultural Resources

Tribal cultural resources are defined as sites, features, places, cultural landscapes, sacred places, and objects with cultural value to a California Native American tribe. These resources are either included or determined to be eligible for inclusion in the California Register of Historical Resources, in a local register of historical resources, or a resource determined by the lead agency. It must be supported by substantial evidence to be significant.

A cultural landscape that meets these criteria is a “tribal cultural resource” to the extent that the landscape is geographically defined in terms of the size and the scope of the landscape. Historical resources, unique archaeological resources, or non-unique archaeological resources may also be tribal cultural resources if they meet these criteria.

The California Native American Heritage Commission

The California Native American Heritage Commission is charged with assisting private landowners who discover human remains on their property. The Commission can assist the landowner in identifying which California tribe the human remains are most likely associated with (MLD) and working with the landowner and MLD in determining the disposition of the remains. The Commission Website provides additional resources and state government contact information.

The California Environmental Quality Act

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires state agencies to regulate the activities of private individuals, corporations, and other public agencies whose activities may affect the environment. The purpose of the regulation is to prevent environmental damage. Additionally, the CEQA requires that public agencies, when feasible, shall avoid damaging effects to any “tribal cultural resource.” The lead agency must consult with a tribe that is traditionally and culturally affiliated with the geographic area of the proposed project. For more information on the CEQA, visit The California Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

The Native American Graves Protection Act

The Native American Graves Protection Act (NAGPRA) is a federal law that was enacted in 1990. The law requires that cultural items such as human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony be returned to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes and Native American Hawaiian organizations. NAGPRA also establishes procedures for the inadvertent discovery or planned excavation of Native American cultural items on federal or tribal lands. For more information regarding NAGPRA, including available grants, please click here.

Photo by R. Miller “Potrero Native Artifacts”