Native American Rights vs. Development in California: Balancing Competing Interests - September 19, 2002

For thousands of years, California Native Americans have practiced religious ceremonies and rituals on specific sites ranging in size from a small area of rock to an entire mountain. Many of these sites, while considered sacred to Native Americans, have long since been developed and have become unavailable for the traditional practices at the core of the tribal community identity. Yet some land, still considered to be sacred, remains undeveloped and it is this land which Senate Bill 1828 seeks to protect. SB 1828 would require meaningful consultation with Indian tribes at the beginning of the permitting process, independent verification of the traditional use of a sacred site, and acceptable mitigation measures to protect the site before a permit to develop the land could be issued. Who should ultimately make decisions regarding land use if a piece of land is deemed sacred by one group, but potentially profitable to another group? How do we determine whose interests should take precedence?