Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – The Senate today passed two measures cosponsored by U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) that would protect the illegal trafficking of Native American artifacts and complete construction of the Miner Flat Dam for the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

The first measure, which was introduced by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and cosponsored by Senator McCain, and titled the Protection of the Rights of Tribes to stop the Export of Cultural and Traditional (PROTECT) Patrimony Resolutionexpresses Congress' condemnation of the theft, illegal possession or sale, transfer, and export of Native American cultural items. The resolution also calls on the Administration to implement several measures to identify and stop the illegal trafficking of tribal cultural patrimony, and secure repatriation of exported items to the rightful Native American owners.

“I’m proud the Senate passed our resolution supporting efforts to stop the illegal trafficking of sacred Native American artifacts,” said Senator McCain. “Year after year, these artifacts, which have deep historical and cultural significance for Native American tribes, are transported and auctioned off overseas. Congress must impose stiffer penalties to stop this illegal practice, and I’ll continue working to pass legislation that would prevent these sacred items from being lost forever.”

Senator McCain is also a cosponsor of the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act (STOP Act), which would increase federal penalties for exporting sensitive tribal cultural items.

The second bill that passed the Senate today would amend the White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act of 2010, which is critical to enable the tribe and the U.S. Department of Interior to move forward with the construction of Miner Flat Dam on the North Fork of the White River on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. 

Six years ago, the federal government made an agreement with the White Mountain Apache Tribe to build the Miner Flat Dam and Reservoir in exchange for the tribe quantifying its water rights claims to the Salt River. Unfortunately, cost-overruns and engineering challenges have plagued the Miner Flat Dam project for years,” said Senator McCain. “This legislation is necessary to put the Bureau of Reclamation back on track to complete this important project. As the White Mountain Apache Tribe continues to face a dire water crisis – with groundwater wells on the reservation having dropped by 50 percent and segments of the White River on the reservation expected to run dry by 2020 – completion of the Miner Flat Dam and Reservoir is critical to safeguard the tribe’s future water supplies. I urge to House to pass this important bill as soon as possible.”