In 1992 the U.S. Congress adopted amendments to the National Historic Preservation Act (P.L. 102-575) that allow federally recognized Indian tribes to take on more formal responsibility for the preservation of significant historic properties on tribal lands. Specifically, Section 101(d)(2) allows tribes to assume any or all of the functions of a State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) with respect to tribal land. The decision to participate or not participate in the program rests with the tribe. With the Big Pine Paiute of the Owens Valley we have a THPO designated person.
As a formal participant in the national historic preservation program, a tribe may assume official responsibility for a number of functions aimed at the preservation of significant historic properties. Those functions include identifying and maintaining inventories of culturally significant properties, nominating properties to national and tribal registers of historic places, conducting Section 106 reviews of Federal agency projects on tribal lands, and conducting educational programs on the importance of preserving historic properties.
In accordance with Section 101(d)(2), the tribes on the National Park Service’ list have formally assumed the responsibilities of the SHPO for purposes of Section 106 compliance on their tribal lands. They have designated Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs) whom Federal agencies consult in lieu of the SHPO for undertakings occurring on, or affecting historic properties on, tribal lands.
For other tribes, the Federal agency must consult a designated representative of the tribe in addition to the SHPO during review of projects occurring on, or affecting historic properties on, their tribal lands. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the National Park Service can provide initial contact information for these tribes.
Federal agencies must also consult with Indian tribes that attach religious and cultural significance to historic properties, regardless of their location.