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Tübatulabal Tribe Working on Land Improvements, Cultural Protections

Residents of the Miranda Allotment on Tübatulabal Tribe land, near Lake Isabella, California, will have better access to clean water when a project of the tribe and the U.S. Indian Health Service is completed. Phase one of the Miranda Water Project includes construction of a new pump house, new 12,500- and 25,000- gallon steel water storage tanks and foundations, residential water lines and installation of additional electrical lines and a new road, Tübatulabal Chairwoman Donna Miranda-Begay said. Phase one is being funded by a $221,700 grant from IHS. There are 20 homes on the 160-acre Miranda Allotment. Twelve homes will initially be connected to the new water system; phase one can accommodate 14 homes. Phase two, yet to be funded, will improve existing water lines, add more water lines, and add a water pump station on the opposite site of the allotment so water service can be extended there. Since 2006, the Tribe has helped with land planning, septic tank installations, and road and water improvements for many of the tribal allotments in Kern Valley, Canebrake, Kelso Valley and Piute Mountain.

Construction on the latest project began April 10, but planning dates back to 2007, when Miranda-Begay and Mickey Stone Jr. toured the Miranda, Chico and White Blanket allotments with representatives of IHS and state Assemblywoman Jean Fuller. Miranda-Begay noted that the Miranda Allotment is an ancient village site known as “yitiyamup.” “It was this first on-site tour that led to the Tübatulabal Tribe’s successful IHS grant award of $221,700 for Miranda Allotment,” she said. On February 21 of this year, the Tübatulabal Tribe Water Board hosted IHS representatives from Fresno and Sacramento, as well as an engineer and Miranda Allotment heirs, for a project start-up meeting. On April 10, the project began with Virgil Eller, Tübatulabal, building a new road – Turtle Road – to the new water tank site. A similar project is planned for the White Blanket Allotment, at a cost of at least $200,000. Miranda-Begay said the construction bid process may begin as early as June. The Tübatulabal Tribe, which has an enrollment of 280, has been working energetically on quality of life improvements, protection of cultural sites, and historic preservation. The tribe has a water board that is actively involved in the Kern County Integrated Regional Water Management Plan and the California Water Plan, and three Tübatulabal Tribe members serve on the state Department of Water Resources Tribal Advisory Committee. The tribe recently signed an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers establishing an improved government-to-government relationship and consultation process as improvements are made to Lake Isabella Dam, which is located within Tübatulabal’s usual and accustomed territory. Tübatulabal monitors will be on hand during the project to ensure cultural resources and remains are not disturbed. The Tübatulabal Tribe is also providing cultural resource monitors for a 10,000-acre wind energy field project. On the economic development end, the tribe is encouraging local construction companies to submit their contact information to the tribe for future notification of infrastructure projects. The Miranda Allotment water project has created temporary jobs for tribal members – among them a foreman, cultural monitor and construction worker – and the hire of a local ready-mix concrete company. “The Tübatulabal Tribe supports the need to employ local Kern Valley companies, tribal members and relatives,” Miranda-Begay said. On April 14-15, the tribe held a ceremony marking the 149th anniversary of the killing of 35 Tübatulabal and Numa men by the U.S. Army, in Kern Valley near Tillie Creek. On April 26, Miranda-Begay participated in the International Indigenous Women’s Symposium in Chickaloon Village, Athabascan Nation, Alaska. She presented a resolution at the symposium on behalf of the Inter-Tribal Council of California. And the tribe has produced a book and video documenting Tübatulabal baskets contained in a state museum collection. The book and video, “Tribal Perspectives of the Tübatulabal Baskets in the California State Parks Museum Resource Center,” are available from the Tübatulabal Tribe, P.O. Box 226, Lake Isabella, CA. 93240,

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