Involvement of Native Americans in Cultural Resources Programs

Article excerpt


As new legislation and regulations are enacted and amended to expand the dimension of cultural resource management, federal land managers responsible for the care of archaeological and historical properties must realign their communication and consultation process to meet these changing requirements. In essence, this realignment should emphasize the active involvement of secondary or interested parties such as Native Americans in decision making and should divert itself from the familiar unilateral approach which normally involves only historic preservation officials.

Keywords: tribal consultation; tribal government; federal trust responsibilities; Bureau of Indian Affairs; tribal historic preservation

"The Indian will never be judged aright till we learn to measure him by his own standards, as we whites would wish to be measured if some more powerful race were to usurp dominion over us. "

Commissioner of Indian Affairs Francis E. Leupp (1904-1909)

This article reviews the need to actively consult and encourage the participation of Native Americans in the regulatory field of cultural resource management (CRM). The two interactive key words, participation and consultation, as used in this context and borrowed from major legislation and regulation language, essentially mean the cooperative and mutual interaction of two or more governmental entities in accomplishing a common and achievable goal in historic preservation on Indian trust land. Secondly, an alternative viewpoint has to be considered when working with Native American tribes, especially in the implementation of those federal laws and regulations affecting Native Americans (i.e., Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, American Indian Religious Freedom Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act). These laws have one thing in common: the imperative to involve tribal governments when historic properties are initially identified through the Section 106 process on land historically occupied or controlled by Native Americans. In addition, the paper examines some budgetary and political dilemmas facing tribes today that may affect the future direction of archaeology in Indian Country.

This article is based on my field and administrative experiences while a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) employee working with tribes in the Southwest and northern Plains. As a Native American working within the bureaucracy of the BIA, my perspective is managerial and emic. Emic, as defined by noted anthropologist Marvin Harris, is an anthropological concept which describes an event by the "subjects' own perceptions" (Bee 1974:18). Autobiographical studies such as Son of Old Man Hat (Dyk 1938) and Sun Chief(Simmons 1942) are excellent examples of how emic approaches are used in the study of cultural change.

Throughout this article the term Indians, Tribes, and Native Americans are used interchangeably as a reference to their: (1) (archaeological definition) indigenous longevity on this continent (Ceram 1971); (2) (ethnological definition) having a distinctive cultural system composed of language, customs, political and kinship systems; and as a (3) (legal definition) political identifier of a federally recognized society as comprehensively described in Federal Indian Law by Felix S. Cohen (1942) and specifically defined within sections of Title 25, Indians of the United States Code Annotated (1983:483).


The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was created in the War Department in 1824, and transferred to the Department of the Interior in 1849. The BIA was assigned to the Department of the Interior so that administration of public lands could be consolidated under the jurisdiction of a single government agency. Indian land, by treaty and statute, was held in trust by the federal government (Champagne 1983:4). The history of the relationship between Native American tribes and the U. …