Tribal Historic Preservation


Tribal Historic Preservation Officers are officially designated by a federally-recognized Indian tribe to direct a program approved by the National Park Service and the THPO must have assumed some or all of the functions of State Historic Preservation Officers on Tribal lands. This program was made possible by the provisions of Section 101(d)(2) of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Before a Tribe may assume the functions of a State Historic Preservation Officer, the National Historic Preservation Act requires Tribes to submit a formal plan to the National Park Service describing how the proposed Tribal Historic Preservation Officer functions will be carried out.

Tribal historic preservation plans have emphasized the importance of the oral tradition, as well as consulting Tribal elders and spiritual leaders with special knowledge of the Tribe’s traditions. They also have given emphasis to the importance of protecting “traditional cultural properties,” places that are eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places because of their association with cultural practices and beliefs that are:

  1. rooted in the history of the community; and
  2. are important to maintaining the continuity of that community’s traditional beliefs and practices

Incorporating Tribal cultural values into the historic preservation program has been consistently cited as a priority. Finally, the need for assuming the responsibility for reviewing Federal undertakings that may affect historical properties and the importance of archaeological survey work was consistently mentioned as essential. Tribal Historic Preservation Officers advise Federal agencies on the management of Tribal historic properties and strive to preserve their Tribes’ cultural heritage and preservation programs.

Resource: National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, What are THPOs?