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Native American Traditional Cultural Landscapes Action Plan - Better Decisions for Historic Properties

Summary: 
How do we balance the need for alternative energy and other development with the preservation of traditional cultural landscapes and other large-scale historic places?

An emerging issue for the national historic preservation community has particular relevance to Indian tribes. That issue is: how do we balance the need for alternative energy and other development with the preservation of traditional cultural landscapes and other large-scale historic places?

This challenge is not new to preservation but the scale of alternative energy development, and associated transmission corridors, poses new and considerable challenges to the preservation of traditional cultural landscapes of importance to Indian tribes. In order for federal agencies to make informed decisions, it is critical to involve tribes as early as possible in planning and before project sites are selected.

In 2009, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) initiated discussions with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations about how to address these issues. Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (the Section 106 process is overseen by the ACHP) any federal undertaking that may adversely affect a historic property on or eligible for listing on, the National Register of Historic Places must consider how to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects to historic properties, including cultural landscapes. Unfortunately, these kinds of historic properties have not always been recognized or understood by federal agencies and the preservation community.

Recognizing the importance of balancing the growing needs of development, while respecting the rights and traditions of Native peoples, the ACHP launched the Native American Traditional Cultural Landscapes Action Plan in November 2011. The plan calls for the ACHP and the Department of the Interior (DOI) to do the following:

  • Promote the recognition and protection of Native American traditional cultural landscapes both within the federal government and the historic preservation community as well as at the state and local levels; and 
  • Address the challenges of the consideration of Native American traditional cultural landscapes in the Section 106 review process as well as in National Environmental Policy Act reviews.

The ACHP has advanced the idea that large scale properties of religious and cultural significance to Indian tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations might best be addressed as landscapes. With adoption of the Native American Traditional Cultural Landscapes Action Plan, the ACHP outlined specific actions to address the challenges of recognizing and protecting these historic properties through partnerships with other federal agencies, Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, State Historic Preservation Officers, and intertribal organizations. It is the goal of the ACHP to broaden this discussion and raise the visibility of this important issue in the larger historic preservation community.  

Partnerships are critical to good decision making and finding the best outcomes for preservation. In one such partnership, ACHP and DOI are addressing the implications of renewable development on historic properties through a joint workgroup on Energy and Historic Preservation

It is important that Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations are aware of and help shape the outcome of this initiative. The ACHP staff and its largely presidentially appointed membership will continue to seek tribal and Native Hawaiian counsel as the initiative advances. Please contact us with any questions, comments, or concerns you may have on this topic. Send comments to landscapes@achp.gov.

 For more information:

 www.achp.gov/news10102011.html.

 

Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA

Chairman

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation