Tribal Cultural Resources

Assembly Bill 52 (Chapter 532, Statutes 2014) required an update to Appendix G (Initial Study Checklist) of the CEQA Guidelines to include questions related to impacts to tribal cultural resources. Section XVII “Tribal Cultural Resources” contains the added questions, which follow:

Would the project cause a substantial adverse change in the significance of a tribal cultural resource, defined in Public Resources Code section 21074 as either a site, feature, place, cultural landscape that is geographically defined in terms of the size and scope of the landscape, sacred place, or object with cultural value to a California Native American tribe, and that is:

  1. a) Listed or eligible for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources, or in a local register of historical resources as defined in Public Resources Code section 5020.1(k), or
  2. b) A resource determined by the lead agency, in its discretion and supported by substantial evidence, to be significant pursuant to criteria set forth in subdivision (c) of Public Resources Code Section 5024.1. In applying the criteria set forth in subdivision (c) of Public Resources Code Section 5024.1, the lead agency shall consider the significance of the resource to a California Native American tribe.

Tribal Consultation

AB 52 requires public agencies to consult with tribes during the CEQA process. The following resources provide more information on how to conduct a tribal consultation in compliance with CEQA. Note, AB 1561 (Garcia, 2020) extended by 30 days tribes’ time for response for any housing development project application completed between March 4, 2020, and December 31, 2021. Tribal consultation was also added as a requirement for housing projects using SB 35 streamlining. For more information, see OPR’s technical advisory on AB 168 (Aguiar-Curry, 2020). For information on the tribal consultation required for General Plan updates, please see OPR’s guidance on SB 18 (Burton, 2004).

Why Tribal Consultation Matters

  • Tribal Consultation is imperative for the protection of tribal spaces and resources that are centrally important to tribal culture and tradition.
  • Tribal Cultural Resources are often non-renewable and irreplicable – if destroyed by a land development project without adequate tribal consultation, they could be lost forever.
  • Tribal Consultation early on in the project development process allows tribes to be involved with the process and address their legitimate and culturally sensitive concerns.
  • Tribal Consultation will be project specific, land specific, and tribe specific – no one size fits all – meaningful engagement with tribal governments is necessary to adequately understand and mitigate the impacts to tribal cultural resources.
  • Tribal Historic Preservation Officers are experts on their tribe’s cultural resources – through Tribal Consultation they are able to readily identify and determine the importance of specific resources and landscapes that may not be recognized even by an experienced archeologist.
  • Meaningful Tribal Consultation provides an opportunity for state and local lead agencies to work with tribal governments in forming and achieving a common goal.
  • Tribal Consultation is a way to respect and honor Tribal Sovereignty.

For More Information

Jennifer Holman
Jennifer Holman was appointed Chief Counsel of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research in December 2022. Ms. Holman and the Legal Affairs office provide legal advice to OPR on a range of legal issues covering the scope of OPR’s statutory charge, including environmental and land use law.