Tribal Historic Preservation Officers – THPO

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.

Tribal Historic Preservation Plans

The THPOs and NATHPO (provides support to the individual THPOs) are committed to implementing tribal and Federal preservation laws on Tribal lands, including Federally-mandated archaeological clearances and evaluation and management of Tribal historic properties. NATHPO provides technical assistance to Tribes seeking approval of Tribal Historic Preservation Programs and develops and provides technical training in all aspects of historic and cultural heritage preservation, maintenance and revitalization, including:

Directing and conducting a comprehensive reservation-wide survey of historic properties and maintaining inventories of those properties

Identifying and nominating eligible properties to the National Register and administering applications for listing historic properties on the National Register

Preparing and implementing a comprehensive Tribal historic preservation plan

Administering the Tribal program of Federal assistance for historic preservation at the reservation (when funds are appropriated by the U S Congress)

Advising and assisting, when appropriate, Federal and State agencies and local governments in carrying out their historic preservation responsibilities

Cooperating with the Secretary of Interior, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and other Federal and State agencies, local governments, and organizations and individuals to ensure that historic properties are taken into consideration at all levels of planning and development

Providing public information, education and training, and technical assistance in historic preservation

Cooperating with local governments in developing local historic preservation programs and assisting local governments in certification (when feasible)

Consulting with the appropriate Federal agencies in accordance with the Act on Federal undertakings that may affect historic properties and the content and sufficiency of any plans developed to protect, manage, or to reduce or mitigate harm to such properties

Advising and assisting in evaluating proposals for rehabilitation projects that may qualify for Federal assistance