AF builds strong tribal relationships with time, compassion, willingness to learn

Air Force representatives at Indian Hills PowWoW
Air Force representatives at Indian Hills PowWoW

Capt. Alana Kotts and Jacqueline Melcher at Oklahoma’s Indian Hills PowWow in July 2021. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas — Listen to understand. For Air Force installation tribal liaison officers, strong tribal relationships aren’t built in a day – it takes time, compassion and a willingness to learn.

Supporting Air Force installations with effective and robust tribal engagement, and respecting the tribes’ ancestral ties and sovereignty, is a critical goal for the Air Force Civil Engineer Center.

“It is inherent in our trust responsibility as representatives of the federal government that we must respect Native Americans and tribal governments and ensure they have a voice in decisions that affect places that hold religious, traditional and/or cultural importance,” said Alison Rubio, Air Force cultural resources subject matter expert. “At AFCEC, we provide the training, information, tools and guidance to help Air Force installations build and sustain strong relationships with associated tribes.”

There are currently 574 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes and villages, each with its own unique culture and traditions. Air Force installations are built on land originally belonging to these diverse tribes, many of which still hold strong historic, cultural and traditional ties to their ancestral homes.

Jacqueline Melcher, installation management flight chief and installation tribal liaison officer for Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of South Dakota. Growing up on a reservation, she especially understands the importance of […]

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