As one of the final bill signings of 2022, President Biden signed into law the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act (S. 1471 / H.R. 2930) on December 21. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation, strongly supported by the National Trust, would strengthen laws aimed at preventing trafficking in Native American cultural items and facilitate the voluntary return of sacred and cultural objects.
The Honorable Brian D. Vallo, Governor of Pueblo of Acoma—a National Trust co-stewardship site in New Mexico—testified as a witness in support of the bill at a May 2021 hearing before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States. The Senate passed the bill unanimously at the end of November, following House passage last year.
At the White House Tribal Nations Summit in early December, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) proposed to rescind Appendix C and instead follow the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s regulations and guidance for implementing Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Appendix C procedures have proved problematic for decades by narrowly defining undertakings, minimizing the Area of Potential Effects, and limiting consultation with Tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, and other consulting parties. The Appendix C procedures have also been applied inconsistently, undermining the USACE’s ability to reliably steward America’s heritage. While the proposal is encouraging, the announcement is the first step of many and will likely take up to a year before Appendix C is rescinded.