• Native Americans with cermeonial masks

    Working with Native Americans

    Cultural Resources National Park Service

Tribal Historic Preservation Program

Students singing
Mescalero Apache Tribe students singing, courtesy of the American Indian Liaison Office

The National Historic Preservation Act as amended in 1992 directs the Secretary of the Interior to establish a National Tribal Preservation Program.  Administered by the National Park Service (NPS), the program is dedicated to working with Indian tribes, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and national organizations, to preserve and protect resources and traditions that are of importance to Native Americans by strengthening their capabilities for operating sustainable preservation programs.  The tribal line item of the Historic Preservation Fund supports two grants programs: Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPO) and the Tribal Heritage Grants. These two grant programs provide much needed assistance to Native American communities interested in protecting their cultural heritage.

Tribal Historic Preservation Officers
Eligibility for the THPO program is limited to federally recognized tribes with a reservation and/or tribal trust lands. An interested tribe submits a request by tribal resolution to assume certain State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) responsibilities on tribal lands and provides a THPO program plan describing how those SHPO duties are performed. Once approved, the THPO takes control of those duties from the state(s) in which the tribal lands lay, and then becomes eligible for operational support from the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF). The THPO Grant is similar to the support provided to the states SHPO programs in that the HPF appropriation is approved by Congress. Once the THPO program plan is complete, a Partnership agreement between the Tribe and the Secretary is executed and the THPO then becomes eligible for HPF grant support on an annually recurring basis.

Technical assistance is available from the NPS Chief of the Tribal Preservation Program to help complete an application and to assist in the administration of the program once the THPO is approved. A THPO Program application, including a cover sheet, formatting guidelines and explanatory notes, is available for download on the NPS THPO website.

Click for a list of current THPOS.

Tribal Heritage Grants
Historic Preservation Fund Grants to Indian Tribes, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiian Organizations:  Since 1990, NPS has awarded grants to Federally recognized Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages and corporations, and Native Hawaiian organizations for the preservation and protection of their cultural heritage.  Unlike THPO Grants, these grants are competitively selected and require a projected completion date of two years or less.  Projects are funded under five basic categories:

    • Locating and Identifying Cultural Resources
    • Preserving Historic Structures Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
    • Comprehensive Preservation Planning
    • Oral History and Documenting Cultural Traditions
    • Education and Training for Building a Historic Preservation Program
This grant program has funded projects such as survey and inventory of sacred and historic places, nominations to the National Register of Historic Places, traditional skills survey of tribal members, documenting traditional lifeways through oral histories, and providing education and training in historic preservation. The call for grant proposals is usually made at the end of November. Applications, guidelines, and reports with project abstracts from prior approved projects grants can be downloaded from the NPS Tribal Heritage Grants website.

For more information about the Tribal Historic Preservation program read Tribal Historic Preservation: Preserving Tribal Heritage 1996-2005.

Contact Us
Contact the Tribal Historic Preservation Program at thpo_program(at)nps.gov