National Park Service Working with American Indians, Alaska Natives And Native Hawaiians
  • Native Americans with cermeonial masks

    Working with Native Americans

    Cultural Resources National Park Service

Geographic Information Systems Facility

View of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon within the boundaries of The Hualapai Tribe of Arizona Indian Reservation, courtesy of James Bird, NPS and the Hualapai THPO, 2007

The Cultural Resources Geographic Information  Systems Facility (CRGIS) explores the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to better manage and protect cultural resources.  Within historic preservation, accurate locational data remains a critical element in the understanding of cultural landscapes, building traditions, settlement patterns and past life ways. Tools like GIS and GPS are important to understanding the context within which resources acquire significance and help the historic preservation community participate in the planning process and stewardship of resources.

The National Park Service has been designated the lead Federal agency for the cultural resource data theme and tasked with providing standards, guidelines and methods of sharing information. CRGIS collaborates with federal agencies, state agencies, Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages and corporations, and Native Hawaiian organizations to develop tools and standards to facilitate data sharing and create cultural resource spatial data transfer standards.  CRGIS works on projects that range from focusing on engineering features to historic buildings to large landscapes and traditional cultural properties.  CRGIS also works to use GIS and GPS following disasters such as hurricanes or floods to identify and evaluate affected properties, determine their historic significance and document the resources themselves in the event of other disasters. In addition, CRGIS provides a wide array of technical services and training on applying these technologies more expansively in cultural resource management. 

Taking advantage of established standards and the use of GIS and GPS will allow Native Americans to better manage and understand their cultural resources, as well as participate in the larger conservation community. CRGIS has provided assistance to Indian tribes, Alaska native villages and corporations, and Native Hawaiian organizations with training, survey and inventory, Section 106 compliance, and other cultural resource related, site specific projects.  Past projects include:

    • GPS field schools:  Worked with the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island, and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, to provide week long GPS field schools that were tailored to serve the resources on their property.
    • Survey and Section 106: Worked with the Navajo Nation to provide hands-on training in GIS to help with survey and inventory as well as Section 106 compliance and cultural resource management. 
    • Emergency Response: CRGIS and the NPS collaborated with several tribes in addition to the Louisiana and Mississippi State Historic Preservation Officers to respond to Hurricane Katrina, developing a digital Section 106 process. 

CRGIS currently works with the Native American GIS community in the creation of Federal cultural resource spatial data transfer standards. 

CRGIS offers an array of training experiences ranging from classroom hands- on introduction to GIS to GPS field schools that serve as a basis for designing and carrying out GPS survey and performing analysis with GIS data using cultural resource applications as the base.  Additionally, CRGIS provides technical assistance in the application of cultural resource spatial data standards, the creation of GIS/GPS projects, the development of survey procedures and other applications of GIS and GPS technologies.

CRGIS continues to explore the range and depth of possibilities GIS and GPS technologies offer cultural resource specialists as they work to find new ways to more accurately record, manage, and promote cultural resources. 

CRGIS services are available for any Indian tribes, Alaska native villages and corporations, and Native Hawaiian organizations, including training, technical assistance and other project work.

Contact Us

Deidre McCarthy, Historian, at 202-354-2141 or