Despite a committee's "do not pass" recommendation, the North Dakota Senate passed a resolution on Monday to study state and tribal practices in preserving cultural sites.
Two Democratic-NPL senators urged the full chamber to pass Senate Concurrent Resolution 4017, citing the significance of tribal culture and the need to preserve historic and sacred sites before knowledge of them is gone.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee had given a 5-1 "do not pass" on the resolution, which passed 27-18 on a requested roll call vote. The Senate usually holds voice votes on resolutions.
"Any adjustments that need to be made are best done between the (State) Historical Society and tribal member representatives, not us as a legislative body," said Sen. Jessica Unruh, R-Beulah, who carried the resolution.
The resolution heard no opposition in committee.
Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, urged passage of the resolution, which she introduced. Heckaman invoked her conversations with Spirit Lake Nation tribal officials, as well as rock circles found on her own family's farm, but no one to explain their significance.
"The issue right now remains that ... some of the historic sites on the reservations cannot be identified by other people other than the tribal members themselves," Heckaman said. "They have historic meaning. They mean something spiritually and culturally, and that's where the difference comes right now."
Sen. Richard Marcellais, D-Belcourt, a former Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa tribal chair, also spoke in support of the resolution. He pointed to the significance of tribal culture to state history, such as reconstructed earth lodge villages and powwow events.
Heckaman also said she hopes supporters of the resolution will "do a better job" on the House side of communicating the resolution's aims.
The resolution now goes to the House.