The ethnography program conducts several kinds of research to comply with National Park Service policies and federal mandates. The goal is to inform park planning, management, and interpretation. The ethnographic overview and assessment is essential for all parks; the traditional use study is the basis for many other studies, as explained in Chapter 10 of the NPS-28: Cultural Resource Management Guideline, per NPS Director's Order 28.
Cultural Affiliation and Lineal Descent Studies
Affiliation studies identify American Indian groups or individuals who may have prehistoric, historic and contemporary affiliations or relationships with natural or cultural resources in NPS units. These studies provide evidence of these relationships or affiliations. A lineal descent study traces an the ties of an individual to ancestors, and thus to objects important to both, or to the human remains of the ancestors themselves.
Ethnographic Landscape Study
This field study typically involves working with stakeholders in visits to park landscapes. These studies differ from the more generic cultural landscape studies conducted by NPS because primary ability and authority to identify and describe it are given to the traditionally associated stakeholders themselves.
The most comprehensive background study, this document reviews existing information on park resources traditionally valued by stakeholders. The information comes mostly from archives and publications; interviews with community members and other constituents—often on trips to specific sites—supply missing data. This study also identifies the need for further research.
This study plots continuity and change in a group's pattern of resource use, demography, and ceremonial life, placing these elements in relation to variables such as neighbors, resource boundaries, and economic, environmental, and political climates as they shift over time.
Oral and Life History
These studies chronicle important events and associated places in parks, and relate them to the context of individual and community ways of life. These studies involve prolonged collaboration between interviewer and interviewee, essential when rapid change threatens a traditional culture, when elders and their stories are unrecorded, and when subsistence areas, practices, and knowledge require documentation. Methods include a wide range of open-ended and focused interviews which can be compared against documentation, when it is readily available.
Traditional Use Study
These studies fill gaps identified by the ethnographic overview and assessment. They also meet the requirements of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which addresses the traditions of Alaskan Natives. A researcher may work over a year to gather information on the annual round of a culture's activities, involving close interaction, extensive interviews, and knowledge of the language. Often the group collaborates in the research.
Rapid Ethnographic Assessment
Rapid Ethnographic Assessment (REAP) is a package of interview, observation, focus group, site walks, mapping, and documentary analysis techniques used when there is a need for information in advance of specific actions—like establishing a new park—that may affect a group's resources and thus its traditions. More focused than the Overview and Aassessment, REAP helps satisfy the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, and considers the views of various stakeholders as its primary focus. This package can yield new ways to manage places deemed important by group members, as well what they want to share with the public.