Living peoples of many ethnic and occupational backgrounds may have an association with the land and its resources that pre-dates the establishment of a park. Ceremonial sites, migration routes, harvesting areas…all may be within park boundaries. While integral to a group's identity, they may not be why the park was established.
Nevertheless, by law, executive order, and agency policy, the National Park Service must respect these peoples and consider the effects of its actions, such as building a new road or visitor center or regulating the use of certain resources. This consultation is important to make more effective the management of NPS resources.
In turn, some laws, regulations, and Departmental Manuals regulate how ethnography is conducted.
Ethnographers assist in fulfilling these mandates as interpreted by the NPS Management Policies. Some of the legislation and executive actions mandating this consultation include:
- The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (.pdf)
- The American Indian Religious Freedom Act (.pdf)
- The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (.pdf)
- The National Environmental Policy Act (.pdf)
- The National Historic Preservation Act
- The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (.pdf)
- The NPS Organic Act
Through interpreting laws and executive orders on cultural resource management, NPS policy defines traditionally associated peoples, commits management to consult with them and other members of the public, and to conduct ethnographic research on the values they attach to park resources. NPS policy includes management policy itself, Director’s Orders, and policy guidance.
Although NPS shares this research with the public, certain laws, regulations, and Interior Department manuals require NPS to withhold culturally sensitive information as confidential. As explained in Negotiating Ethical and Legal Mazes in the Federal Workplace, some of these legal requirements are included in the following: