National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

National Register of Historic Places Program:
Traditional Cultural Properties Request for Comments

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.


The National Register of Historic Places is hosting an e-mail forum to discuss the issues faced with listing TCPs on the National Register.

Background Information:

Powerpoint presentation (from the May 23th webinar)

Initial letter requesting comments:

• Request for Comments on the National Register of Historic Places Traditional Cultural Property Evaluation and Documentation Process (Word document)

Nantucket Sound Found Eligible for Listing in the National Register Decision(Cape Wind) and Cape Wind Comments of effects on NHLs October 22, 2009

Turner Falls DOE Decision

Dune Shacks TCP Decision

Copies of the current Guidance, NR Bulletin 38, and other information, can
be obtained at the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training

Where should e-mails go?

The comment period has officially ended, but if you still have comments, please feel free to send them to us at:

Respondents should identify their submission(s) as a “TCP/NAL Comment” in
their e-mail “subject” box.



Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) (pdf) offers the following comments on your on-going
effort to consider updates/revisions to National Register Bulletin 38 Guidelines for Evaluating
and Documenting Traditional Cultural Properties.

On behalf of the Hualapai Tribe (pdf), this letter offers comments on the National Park Service initiative to revise National Register Bulletin 38, Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Traditional Cultural Properties (hereinafter “Bulletin 38”) and the related initiative to develop guidance on National Register eligible “traditional Native American landscapes.”

 American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA) Comments (pdf)

Kathleen S. Kilpatrick: Virginia State Historic Preservation Office Comments (pdf)

My name’s Tom King. In the late 1980s, Patricia Parker and I authored National Register
Bulletin 38, the National Park Service’s guidelines for evaluating what we called “traditional
cultural properties” (TCPs) for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Bulletin 38
has been used a good deal, particularly by Indian tribes and Native Hawaiians seeking to
protect places important in their cultural traditions. It’s featured in a number of court cases.

Now in 2013 the Park Service is re-thinking Bulletin 38, and asking for comments on it. I
thought it might be helpful for me to make this recording so people can review the Bulletin
without having to read it. I also want to explain some things the Bulletin says, that experience
over the last twenty years suggests we maybe ought to have said differently.

For a lot more background on Bulletin 38 and its subject, let me refer you to my 2003 textbook –
a second edition is underway now – called Places That Count: Traditional Cultural Properties in
Cultural Resource Management, published in 2003 by Altamira Press.
Now, without further ado, let me read and comment on….

Full comments - pdf

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is pleased to provide the following comments on the National Register Program's process for identifying, evaluating, and documenting Traditional Cultural Properties (TCP) and Native American Landscapes.  Most of the DOE sites have little or no experience with this process and did not feel qualified to comment on the current practice.

One entity, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), provided the following comments which we submit in their entirety.  The comments are identified by the categories in the National Park Service (NPS) request.

full comments - pdf

In response to the National Register Program’s request for comments on identifying, evaluating, and documenting traditional cultural properties and Native American landscapes:


As a private contractor often tasked with identifying and documenting places of cultural or religious importance, WCRM has truly appreciated having Bulletin 38, as well as Bulletin 15, as guidance in discussing potential eligibility of these places.  As it is, Bulletin 38 indeed remains an essential, basic resource for identifying, evaluating, and documenting TCPs.  It could use some expansion of definitions and more examples, as well as some guidance in whom to contact with questions.  In response to your request for comments, WCRM offers the following :


What constitutes a “traditional” community.  Rather than trying to define a “traditional” community, it might be better to focus on how a place or landscape is of traditional cultural significance to that community.  It would be beneficial to provide some discussion of what a “culture group” might be, keeping in mind that it should be broadly defined, yet focus on the NPS definition of “culture” as “the traditions, beliefs, practices, lifeways, arts, crafts, and social institutions of any community, be it an Indian tribe, a local ethnic group, or the people of the nation as a whole.”  As an example of possible cultural groups other than Native American, WCRM is currently working with mining and ranching communities to identify places of cultural or religious importance.  Members of these communities consider themselves to be discrete cultural groups with shared traits like those listed above.


“Continuity of use” by a traditional community.  There is nothing in the NHPA or its regulations that state a property must have “continuity of use.”  If there was such a restriction, very few historic properties, particularly archaeological sites, would be eligible to the NRHP.  Why limit TCPs in this manner?  Also, the term “continuity of use” means different things to different culture groups.  For example, an identified TCP may not be used in any physical manner by a given cultural group, but it is talked about in that group’s oral traditions and/or is considered to be an integral part of the groups shared traditions and beliefs.


Evolving uses of resources by a traditional community.  Culture is not static; therefore, it is highly likely that use of a TCP and its associated components will not be static.  It stands to reason that the use of any given place of cultural or religious importance might change over time.  This does not, however, lessen the cultural significance of the TCP in question. 


Multiple lines of documentary evidence.  What, exactly, is meant by “multiple lines of documentary evidence?”  The best source of evidence for information about a TCP is a person who has knowledge about the place, either first-hand or passed down from elders.  Although it is helpful (sometimes) to have previously documented information on a TCP, it is not necessary.  Additionally, no other type of historic property requires multiple lines of documentary evidence.


Broad ethnographic landscapes.  WCRM concurs with Dr. King’s comment: “Broad or narrow, the term ‘ethnographic landscape’ is insulting to those who value cultural landscapes; it implies that a landscape is important because of its role in ethnographic research.  It may be, but that’s usually beside the point.  Traditional cultural landscapes (including but not limited to many ‘Native American landscapes’) are simply that – traditional cultural properties that happen to be landscapes, landscapes that have traditional cultural value.  Ethnography has nothing to do with it.  Please discard the term.”  Perhaps, the better term to use would be “traditional cultural landscape.”  Webster defines “ethnography” as “the study and systematic recording of human cultures.”  Although researchers (generally cultural anthropologists or archaeologists) use ethnographic field methods (interviewing people, etc.) in collecting data for the purpose of documenting a TCP, they are not “doing ethnography.” 


Property boundaries.  Actually, property boundaries are not really discussed in either the law or regulations outside of the exception for National Historic Landmarks and “changes.”  There is no wording in either the law or the regulations that specifically states that any historic property has to be bounded.  So the only time that boundaries might be an issue is during the Section 106 process where there would be an “undertaking” boundary.


Resource integrity.  Where TCPs/traditional cultural landscapes are concerned, if the place still has cultural significance to a particular cultural group or community, then it maintains its integrity.  It does not need to be more complicated than that.


Other “user-identified” TCP-related issues.  First and foremost, are you implying that there is a need for a separate guidance for Native American landscapes?  Bulletin 38 already provides discussion of Native American places of cultural or religious importance (TCPs). It is not really necessary to develop a separate guidance document since the majority of “individual” Native American TCPs are either part of or closely associated with a traditional cultural landscape.


Before making any revisions to Bulletin 38 or developing an additional guidance document for Native American landscapes, it would be wise to engage the various Native American tribes to get their input.  NPS really should set up face-to-face meetings in appropriate locations with THPOs or other tribal representatives to elicit their participation in the process.


With respect to adding guidance to identifying and evaluating TCPs concerning the Sections 106 process, this is not truly necessary.  This assumes that the processes for nominating a property to the NRHP and for evaluation under Section 106 are somehow different.  They are not.  The difference lies in how the properties are treated and that is beyond the scope of identification or evaluation.


Finally, the comment made by the SAA about the inadequacy of “skill sets of the practitioners charged with identifying, assessing, and managing TCPs,” is misguided.  It might be useful to include the draft Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Cultural Anthropology as an Appendix.  A good practitioner (inappropriately referred to as an “ethnographer”) who does these types of assessments or inventories should have a good grasp of ethnographic methods, such as how to conduct interviews, conduct direct observation, etc.; working knowledge of the various laws and regulations pertaining to historic properties and other cultural resources; better than average people skills, particularly Native Americans, federal agency representatives, and project proponents; and the ability to write a technical report that is coherent, keeping in mind that confidentiality of information may be needed.  The good practitioner should also be able to assist and/or provide direction to tribes in developing and performing their own assessments or inventories.  There really is no need for a cultural anthropologist, or in some cases, archaeologists to have extensive “training in oral history techniques, qualitative analysis, folklore and folk life, sociology, or landscape planning and management.”


Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on identifying, evaluating, and documenting traditional cultural properties and Native American landscapes.


Ginny Bengston


Bureau of Reclamation Comments 10/29/2012 (pdf 803 kb)

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is pleased to submit our comments on the proposed revision of National Register Bulletin 38. (pdf 172 kb)

Comments of JR Welch on Bulletin 38 (word document)


First off, let me say that Bulletin 38 is a great asset when dealing with large areas of multicultural diversity and use patterns.  That being said, there are two elements that need addressed: expanding the definition of integrity as well as the requirement to fulfill one or more criteria.  In addition, Bulletin 38 leaves many with the impression that a TCP is only reserved for indigenous populations; not so. Further examples and discussion regarding immigrant/emigrant cultures would enhance the overall applicability of the bulletin.

Chuck Carrig

The forgotten back-country is obscured behind conveniently contrived and aptly named front-country which at the extreme gives rise to Disnyfication, where space and time are twisted, reconfigured, gentrified and commodified…

Dear NPS:  I have already responded once before to essentially this set of
questions, but I imagine that there may be some virtue in repetition, so
here's another stab at each.

In a message dated 10/15/2012 2:40:23 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
nr_info [at] writes:

<<What constitutes a “traditional” community?>>

A traditional community comprises a bunch of people who share a tradition
or traditions.  NPS is neither authorized by law nor competent to judge
whether any particular such bunch is legitimate, or to opine about the
legitimacy of its traditions.  If a group of people regards itself as a
community, and has traditions about itself, its history, its beliefs, its
practices, then it's a traditional community.

<<(What constitutes) “Continuity of use” by a traditional community/>>

As I've noted elsewhere, "continuity of use" is a concept that's been made
up and invoked by National Register staffers, SHPOs, consultants, change
agents, and others to deny connections between traditional communities and
places with which such communities have associations.  It is a particularly
obnoxious, biased, ethnocentric, anti-historic and flatly racist concept
when applied to places of traditional significance to indigenous groups,
who often have been denied "continuity of use" by virtue of having their
traditional places stolen from them, by force of arms, or through
decimation by imported diseases.  It is a concept that the authors of
National Register Bulletin 38 intentionally did not employ, and as one of
those authors I deeply object to NPS's attempt to sneak it into the
consideration of traditional cultural properties.

Obviously, some communities are fortunate enough to be able to continue to
use their traditional places, and they do.  Others are unable to, so they
don't, but that makes an unused place no less significant to them, and no
less eligible for the National Register if it meets the NR criteria (which,
of course, say nothing about "continuity of use."

<<(What should we think about) evolving uses of resources by a traditional

Uses evolve, just like everything else in life.  Get over it.  Traditional
fishermen in the Great Lakes do not have to use birchbark canoes and
bone-tipped spears to exercise their treaty-protected fishing rights.
Inuit hunters use ski-dos.  It's really none of your business; quit
fretting about it.

<<(How should we use)multiple lines of documentary evidence?

In Bulletin 38, we referred to using multiple lines of evidence (including
but not limited to documentary evidence) in cases where disputes exist
about whether a place really is traditionally significant.  Our primary
intent, I believe, was to warn against elevating the documentary record
compiled by outsiders over the oral record maintained by people inside the
community.  If one is called upon to evaluate a traditional cultural place,
and cannot get out of it, one ought to consider all the evidence, involving
however many "lines" can be reasonably investigated.  In general, however,
the most powerful line of evidence is (if this is the case) that people
believe a place has traditional significance.  The fact that no literate
outsider has happened to record the matter is of little importance.

<<(What are) broad ethnographic landscapes?

I suppose this NPS-invented term means expansive landscapes that
ethnographers find interesting in terms of their research.  A broad
cultural or traditional landscape, on the other hand, is a kind of
traditional cultural property -- an expansive landscape (or riverscape, or
seascape, or townscape) to which a group of people ascribes traditional
cultural significance.

<<(What should we do about) property boundaries?

Define them if they're useful, ignore them if they're not.  There is
nothing sacred about boundaries; they're notational conveniences.  It would
be useful for NPS and/or the ACHP to make it clear to practitioners too
dumb to figure it out for themselves that if boundaries are drawn around a
place they are always more or less arbitrary clerical devices, that they
are often provisional (it's quite possible to draw them in the wrong
places), and they have little or nothing to do with whether a place is
affected by a proposed action -- actions taking place far outside the
defined boundaries of a place may have profound visual, auditory,
secondary, and other effects on it.

<<(How should we define) resource integrity?

If the community that values a place thinks it has integrity, it has
integrity.  The significance and integrity of a place exist in the eyes and
minds of those who value it.  A place may, of course, have other kinds of
integrity to other groups of people -- architectural historians,
archaeologists, historians, others.  But its cultural integrity is defined
by the people who value it.

<<NPS is also seeking to identify and address any other “user-identified”
TCP-related issues.>>

NPS might usefully create some sort of cross-reference between Bulletin 38
and other NPS guidance, including but not limited to NR Bulletin 30 and
Preservation Brief 36.  The latter source is particularly useful in its
explicit acknowledgement that natural resources, including wildlife and
domestic animals, can be parts of a landscape's significance and contribute
to its integrity.  Failing to mention this (I think we thought it
self-evident) was a flaw in our production of Bulletin 38.  It would also
be useful to expunge from Bulletin 15 and other NPS guidance all language
implying that a place must be valued by a "professional" in order to be
eligible for the National Register.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment again.

Tom King

Thomas F. King, PhD, LLC
PO Box 14515, Silver Spring MD 20911
Recently published by Wiley-Blackwell: Companion to Cultural Resource
Management; see
Recently published by Dog Ear Publishing: Thirteen Bones. See

Recently published by Left Coast Press: Our Unprotected Heritage:
Whitewashing Destruction of Our Natural and Cultural Environment. February
2009, see


Below are comments from DHS on the revision of Bulletin #38 (or issues to
consider as NPS develops additional guidance on TCPs, if the Bulletin
itself isn’t going to be revised).

      It would be most helpful and appropriate to begin with the definition
      of a TCP, then provide examples to support that definition. A TCP can
      be found in any community and anywhere, and this recognition should
      be the basis of and be reflected in the definition and in evaluations
      for NR eligibility. The discussion and examples in the current
      bulletin are weighted toward Native American TCPs. The bulletin
      should be expanded to also include other groups and examples of TCPs.
      Across the country, in rural areas, cities, towns, and suburbs, there
      are many examples that meet the definition laid out in the bulletin.
      The bulletin references neighborhoods and the built environment in
      passing (e.g., Honolulu's Chinatown), but does not discuss the built
      environment in detail. The majority of the examples and discussion
      continue to focus on archaeological sites. If TCPs can be structures,
      then this discussion should be expanded and strengthened throughout
      the document.

      Section III, pages 6-7, regarding the sentence that begins “As a
general although not invariable rule…” The statements contained
therein may subtly direct readers to ignore the importance of
‘ethnic’ or ‘neighborhood’ TCPs of significance in rural and suburban
areas. Therefore, sentences such as these should be deleted.
Page 10, regarding “attempting to reconcile conflicting contemporary
sources.”  This paragraph states that cultural constraints must be
“carefully analyzed,” but doesn’t provide any guidance on how to do
so.  Elaborating or providing examples would be helpful here.
Regarding the section “Step Three: Evaluate the Property with
Reference to the National Register Criteria.” Expand the examples to
include other groups and to include urban, suburban, and rural
places, in addition to Native American TCPs.

Specific guidance on applying each of the seven aspects of integrity
would be more beneficial than the generic discussion provided in the
current bulletin.

In a changing world where many traditional practices of all cultural
groups are under pressure and are being altered or are disappearing,
how should this be handled in the evaluation? Is it still a TCP if
the activity has gone from including the entire community a
generation ago to just a few individuals or elders today?
Many sailing vessels are listed on the National Register and
designated as NHLs. In the bulletin, the Palauan war canoe is called
out as a TCP, but could it instead simply be listed on the National
Register?  This separation of certain cultural objects makes the
definition more difficult to understand and to apply.

Expand the discussion of Criterion B and add more examples when
explaining how to apply this criterion to spiritual or supernatural

Will there be guidance on when to consider de-listing a TCP?
The list of sources and examples should be updated to include those
more recent than the 1980s.

In revising the bulletin, more emphasis should be placed on the fact
that a TCP must meet one of the Criteria and have integrity in order
to be eligible for listing on the National Register.

Pages 17-18, Consideration G. The sentences “A significance ascribed
to a property only in the past 50 years cannot be considered
traditional” and “if [use of a property] has begun only within the
past 50 years, it is probably not eligible” seem to contradict other
statements in this section, particularly the acknowledgement that
“many cultural uses may have left little or no physical evidence, and
may not have been noted by ethnographers…” and the fact that a
property may have gone unused for a lengthy period of time (e.g.,
when an Indian tribe was forced to abandon a location when relocated
to a reservation in a different part of the country). This section
should be revised or clarified.


Laura A. Shick
Environmental Protection Specialist
Sustainability & Environmental Programs
Department of Homeland Security
BB: 202-603-3517

Rethinking the National Register Criteria For Tribal Sites
Catherine Glidden, Ben Rhodd and Randy Withrow
Paper presented to SAA

(Word Document 62 kb)

The key issues are relatively simple and few.

1. The language of Bulletin 38 is reasonably clear; the problems, for the
most part, have arisen from an unwillingness to act on and accept that
guidance.  In practice, the tribal expertise and “insider knowledge” that
Bulletin 38 indicates should prevail has been rejected as insufficient.

2. Dealing with significant cultural landscapes, other than the designed
historic landscapes, is not easily accommodated within the National
Register structure.  Perhaps is it time to consider adding another type to
the list.

3. The best place to start revising/improving guidance on identifying and
evaluating the historic significance of places important to tribes is to
specifically address those issues that come up again and again in
consultation, in identifying and evaluating TCPs and other resources, and
in Section 106 reviews.   Tribal cultural resource staffs can provide a
long list of examples, and many of the same problems appear on multiple
lists—whether project by project or tribe by tribe.  Many of those ideas
were identified during the tribal summit on renewable energy (Jan 12-13,
2011) and the forum on traditional cultural landscapes (Aug 10, 2011).

Below are some comments on your topic areas.

--Regarding “multiple lines of documentary evidence:”
De-emphasize “documentary”—this goes to the heart of the problem.  Input
other than Euroamerican historical documents and
ethnographic/archaeological publications must carry weight in identifying
and evaluating TCPs—especially input from traditional cultural leaders.  To
date, although the 1992 amendments to the NHPA and the subsequent revision
of 36 CFR Part 800 clearly indicate the importance that should be placed on
the significance of places to tribal cultures, the preservation community
has been extremely resistant to giving weight to traditional cultural
expertise in evaluating eligibility.  If this practice does not change, any
revision of Bulletin 38 or additional guidance issued will be meaningless.

--Resource integrity:
This is a multifaceted issue.  Building a new highway through a sacred
landscape may adversely affect its historic integrity, but past
disturbance/construction should not be automatically taken to indicate a
lack of integrity/significance of a culturally important place.  The
possibilities seem to be adequately addressed in Bulletin 38.

User-identified issues:
1. National Register process/definition problems are the greatest
impediment to resolving conflicts over traditional cultural significance.
Bulletin 38 presents a very positive picture of the recognition that will
be accorded to traditional cultural expertise.  In practice, traditional
cultural experts without scientific evidence of their beliefs are not
likely to prevail.

2. The preservation community, including NPS and ACHP, must resolve the
contradiction between approach outlined in Bulletin 38 (and NHPA and 36 CFR
800 revisions) and procedural roadblocks in the application of definitions
and criteria in a way that increases the weight given to tribal expertise.
Revised guidance must acknowledge the special expertise of traditional
cultural leaders as “evidence” in the evaluation of significance, and that
guidance must be put into practice.  NPS should define more flexible
documentation standards to facilitate this process.

The following quotes from Bulletin 38 appear to facilitate recognition of
traditionally important places.  In practice, however, this guidance has
been interpreted differently by the National Register Program and others in
the historic preservation community:

On Page 2:
Traditional cultural properties … may not necessarily come to light through
the conduct of archeological, historical, or architectural surveys.  The
existence and significance of such locations often can be ascertained only
through interviews with knowledgeable users of the area, or through other
forms of ethnographic research.

In Practice: Tribal input seldom if ever has been taken as adequate
“evidence” of historic significance.

On Page 4:
One more point that should be remembered in evaluating traditional cultural
properties—as in evaluating any other kind of properties—is that
establishing that a property is eligible for inclusion in the National
Register does not necessarily mean that the property must be protected from
disturbance or damage. Establishing that a property is eligible means that
it must be considered in planning Federal, federally assisted, and
federally licensed undertakings, but it does not mean that such an
undertaking cannot be allowed to damage or destroy it.

In Practice: The historic preservation community in general is comfortable
with eligible archaeological sites (and other types of resources) because
there are accepted mitigation options.  In contrast, there is usually no
treatment or mitigation of adverse effects to traditional cultural places.
This had led to the practice of finding places of traditional cultural
value to be ineligible—so treatment never becomes an issue.

On Page 9:
Sometimes an apparent conflict exists between documentary data on
traditional cultural properties and the testimony of contemporary
consultants. The most common kind of conflict occurs when ethnographic and
ethnohistorical documents do not identify a given place as playing an
important role in the tradition and culture of a group, while contemporary
members of the group say the property does have such a role. More rarely,
documentary sources may indicate that a property does have cultural
significance while contemporary sources say it does not.

In practice:  Such conflicts are resolved by relying on “history” (that is,
written sources) not tribal expertise.

On Page 13:
For example, events recounted in the traditions of Native American groups
may have occurred in a time before the creation of the world as we know it,
or at least before the creation of people. It would be fruitless to try to
demonstrate, using the techniques of history and science, that a given
location did or did not objectively exist in a time whose own existence
cannot be demonstrated scientifically. Such a demonstration is unnecessary
for purposes of eligibility determination; as long as the tradition itself
is rooted in the history of the group, and associates the property with
traditional events, the association can be accepted.

In practice: Tribal expertise has not been accepted as demonstrating
association or significance.

Finally, traditional cultural landscapes pose even more challenging issues
for those involved in historic and tribal cultural preservation.   In my
view, problems arise primarily from the following:
Inadequate tribal consultation—too late, not sufficient, for whatever
reason just doesn’t get to the heart of the matter, no trust?
Project-specific (APE) focus failing to identify and protect
landscapes—often those involved refuse to look at the big picture
Phased inventories, which are often used as part of the NEPA process, allow
planning to proceed too far before significant resources are identified and
No shared accepted definition of traditional cultural landscape (or
archaeological landscape)
Fear that recognition of significant cultural landscapes will “kill”
projects (undertakings)

In general only a subset of historic-period landscapes may be easily
evaluated within the current National Register construct.  Identifying and
evaluating archaeological and rural landscapes, as well as traditional
cultural landscapes, have generally been avoided because of the fear that
finding them eligible will have a stifling effect on
projects/progress/development/land management.  Any new guidance should
emphasize that recognizing the significance of a landscape--finding it
eligible--does not mean it must/will be preserved undisturbed.  Likewise,
it is important to recognize that, through the review process, some
landscapes (traditional or otherwise) might be found to be worthy of

The ACHP’s July 29, 2011 guidance on Traditional Cultural Landscapes in the
Section 106 Review Process and Native American Traditional Cultural
Landscapes Action Plan (Nov 23, 2011) provide a sound jumping-off place for
this effort

James Kari Comments (Word document 23 kb)

Comments on Identifying, Evaluating, & Documenting
Traditional Cultural Properties for NPS
Kelley L. Uyeoka, MA
Principal, Kumupa- a Cultural Resource Consultants, LLC

(pdf 140 kb)

National Register Program
Comment on Identifying, Evaluating, and Documenting TCPs and Native
American Landscapes

I would like to first thank you for the opportunity to comment on what
appears to be revisions, and I hope improvements,  to the current TCP
process.  It is good to see the National Register Program and NPS open
minded about improving the process by which TCPs and cultural landscapes
are identified, evaluated, and documented.

My experience with heritage preservation stems from 19 years as an
archaeologist and most relevantly as Director of the CRM Archaeology
graduate program in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at St.
Cloud State University, Minnesota.  As an associate professor at SCSU, I
have spent many semesters teaching graduate courses on the NHPA and related
acts and guidelines, as well as state and tribal approaches to heritage
management.  One of the topics that always results in multifaceted debate
is when we discuss traditional cultural properties and analyze NPS Bulletin
38.  While not all graduate students agree on the details, I can say with
confidence that on the whole everyone agrees that the current Bulletin 38
guidelines are inadequate to meet the modern needs of American Indian
tribes and other non-Indian stakeholder communities around the country.
While they are well intended, it is time they are updated and I applaud
your efforts to seek public comment and move forward with revisions.  My
comments that follow are organized around the topics listed in the request
for comments.

What constitutes a traditional community?
By definition (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary), a “community”
includes: 1) a unified body of individuals; 2) people with common interests
living in a particular area; 3) a group of people with a common
characteristic or interest living together within a larger society; 4) a
group linked by a common policy; 5) a body of persons or nations having a
common history or common social, economic, and political interests; and 6)
a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered
throughout a larger society.  “Tradition” includes: 1) an inherited,
established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a
religious practice or a social custom); 2) the handing down of information,
beliefs and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to
another without written instruction; 3) cultural continuity in social
attitudes and institutions; 4) characteristic manner, method, or style.
Thus, we could combine any of the varieties of tradition with any variety
of community to have a group that meets the Bulletin 38 standard.

I think this is important to think about because in practice it seems that
most people think of “traditional communities” as ones that must share
cultural practices significantly different than mainstream American
society.  If my observation is correct, then this is a very important
assumption to examine because it could lead to a group not appearing to be
“traditional enough” in the eyes of a federal heritage preservation manager
if that group did not distinguish themselves from mainstream American
society in some kind of dramatic cultural fashion.  In real terms, this
kind of assumption regarding the implied definition of “traditional
community” could disadvantage an American Indian community that lived
within an urban setting (e.g., Minneapolis, Denver) that was not federally
recognized as an official tribe that required consultation under the law.
This assumed definition may also disadvantage tribal communities that did
not speak a fluent traditional language or distinguish themselves through
other publically displayed cultural customs but rather seemed no different
than any other members of the larger American society and thus, by
implication, did not appear on the surface to be a traditional community.
I think one improvement to the Bulletin 38 guidelines would be to more
thoroughly discuss the definition of traditional community with the goal of
expanding the definition to it is full meaning and not limit the examples

Nowhere in the definitions of traditional or community is there a minimum
size for the community nor a minimum age for the depth of tradition.  The
NHPA sets a limit of 50 years for historic properties, so we might take
this as a minimum for how long a traditional practice must have occurred
before a place can be considered “historic.”  But, the question arises in
many of my graduate seminars, could a community be as few as two people?
At what scale of population must a federal agency consult with a
traditional community?  What if the tradition is only practiced by the
elderly and there are few of them left, or if the tradition requires
working knowledge of a language and there are few modern speakers?  Should
the voice of only a few carry as much weight as a community of hundreds?
If we are to provide equal protection under the law to all members of our
society, then I would argue that a community of as few as two people must

What constitutes continuity of use by a traditional community?
This is perhaps the thorniest issue of the Bulletin 38 guidelines and even
seems to contain contradictory statements in certain parts of the
guidelines.  Thomas King provided a good summary of the two positions when
he contrasted his position with that of Lynne Sebastian: one feels that a
place must have relatively continuous use through time, while the other
feels a place may go for generations without being used so long as it’s
existence is kept alive in the knowledge of the traditional community.
While the former position seems in closer keeping with the original
Bulletin 38 guidelines, King brings up an excellent example of a situation
where an American Indian tribe has been forcibly removed from their
traditional lands yet has kept alive ideas and information about special
places within their traditional lands.  Even if the tribe was not sure of
exactly where a traditional place was physically located, should they not
be allowed to access that place once discovered?  The ancient cultural
“capital” of the Cherokee that was rediscovered a number of years ago by
archaeologists serves as an excellent example.

Furthermore, a very important component of “continued use” that has not
been defined is the frequency or rate of use.  Does a traditional use have
to occur every year?  What if the tradition is only supposed to occur every
few years?  What if the tradition is supposed to occur only once in
someone’s lifetime and then again in the subsequent generation?  An example
may be a vision quest site that is used by a family that only uses the spot
once in a generation.  In such a case does a 20-30 year lag between visits
negate the role of the place as a TCP for the community, even if knowledge
of the place is kept alive during the intervening period?  I would argue
that it does not.

If we remove the constraint of continued, or at least relatively
uninterrupted, use, then there arise situations where traditional knowledge
kept alive by a community must be applied to a landscape before a
traditional place can be identified.  I have seen examples of unique
combinations of landscape elements that are only able to be identified by
American Indian elders as “traditional” after personally inspecting the
landscape.  This is not an example of a post-hoc definition of TCP, but
rather an instance where a unique combination of landscape features met
certain traditional criteria for comprising a place where specific
activities (e.g., eagle catching, fasting/vision seeking) once occurred and
may occur again, yet was not previously documented because no one had ever
needed to document it before.

It is my impression that many who criticize claims for a TCP that seem to
be “made up on the spot” do not understand the aforementioned process and
hold to a more strict application of the “continued use” clause.  There is
occasionally merit to these criticisms and the original authors of Bulletin
38 strongly urged additional supporting evidence to be provided in TCP
claims to guard against this.  I do not mean to imply that the current TCP
process is never manipulated for political or economic ends.  People are
people and have the unfortunate ability to manipulate the goodwill of
others.  However, I do not think restricting the criteria for TCP
designation or requiring “higher standards of proof” is the answer to
identifying false TCP claims.  I think the best way to avoid such
manipulations of the heritage preservation system is for federal, state,
and tribal land managers to develop honest and long lasting relationships
with each other and with their local “communities” (writ large).  It is
only through relationship building and long term commitment to a community
that we can really understand community needs and respond in appropriate

Evolving uses of resources by a traditional community
Anthropologists recognize that all cultures are dynamic and evolve.  That
is the only way for cultures to be maintained over long periods of time.
If a place served a function at one point that then evolved into a
different function today, yet the physical place where both of these
activities occurred is the same, then I see no reason why it cannot be a
TCP.  It could be argued that to restrict only certain activities that are
‘allowed’ to be performed at a certain place is an exertion of cultural
values by a dominant society over a traditional community.  If the
traditional community is the one that defines the role of a TCP and how it
functions for their needs and within their culture, how can anyone else
outside that community impose any rules or restrictions on how the TCP is
used?  If the goal of TCP designation is to acknowledge a community-defined
place as special to that community, then under what authority could the NPS
(or any other land management agency) restrict the function of that place
to the society that defined it?

Multiple lines of documentary evidence
Next to “continuity of use”, this is the other most contentious aspect of
the current Bulletin 38 guidelines.  The authors of Bulletin 38 encouraged
cultural resource managers to document a TCP using as many sources as they
could in order to guard against fraudulent claims while also bringing to
bear as many positive resources as possible to support legitimate TCP
claims.  Possibly in relation to the Kennewick Man rulings, many now
consider oral history as a lesser value than written documentation when
evaluating TCPs.  This of course assumes that anything of cultural value
that is “truly traditional” must have been recorded by an anthropologist a
long time ago if it is to be a legitimate TCP.  This criterion also stems
from many who rely on academic sources of information as authoritarian,
rather than oral histories.  The difference between many American Indian
forms of oral knowledge transmission and that used by western academic
institutions is well published and I do not need to elaborate it here.
However, it seems that in some cases federal and state land managers and
heritage preservationists forget (or never learned) about these differences
and require a kind of published documentation that simply does not exist
for TCPs.  Even if we were to openly accept all forms of oral history as
valid evidence without requiring published documentation, how could we
filter out people who intended to manipulate the TCP process for political
or economic gain?  I am not sure, but again, I would go back to the idea of
long-term trust-based relationships built between land management agencies
and the myriad communities they serve and this can only happen through
honest commitment and sustained effort.

Broad ethnographic landscapes
Tribal atlases (e.g., Navaho, Zuni, and Basso’s writing on the Apache)
document very large landscapes imbued with cultural meaning.  Minnesota has
recently been thinking about large Euro-American rural landscapes that
preserve complete farm systems that document lifeways of the early 20th
century.  If modern active farms are included, one could argue that such
landscapes comprise traditional cultural properties with uninterrupted use
for well over 50 years.

I think the definition of a TCP, as it currently stands, is too narrow to
adequately encompass an entire landscape.  Again, Thomas King provides
salient examples of the Grand Canyon and Lake Superior and argues cogently
for how they are actually TCPs but managing them as such raises intractable
issues that would bog down the multiple uses they currently enjoy.  Use of
National Heritage corridors (e.g., Erie Canal, NY) seems like an excellent
tool for identifying, recognizing, and managing huge landscapes with
extremely complex mixes of ownership, zoning, use, and access, but that are
all connected as part of a unified heritage theme.  Perhaps a “Traditional
Cultural Landscape” classification could be developed that recognized the
interconnected nature of many seemingly separate landscape elements that
are all actually linked to a larger cultural understanding of how a very
big place is supposed “to work.”

Property boundaries
For very big properties, this is related to the issue above.  For
management purposes, a property must have definable boundaries.  The way
around this is to expand our concept of traditional practice to include all
forms of cultural practice for a community instead of specifically
designated behaviors that have a clear beginning and ending point, which is
mostly how the TCP concept is applied today.  In other words, if one wants
to designate the practice of a vision quest as a traditional activity that
occurs at a certain place on the landscape, then an observer could define
what they see as the beginning and ending of the vision quest itself by the
arrival and departure of the practitioner to and from the vision quest
site.  Furthermore, the area within which the practitioner confined their
activity could be mapped with boundaries drawn on paper.  However, from the
point of view of the practitioner, there may be no boundary whatsoever
between the vision quest site and the much larger non-vision quest
landscape because for them the entire would could be considered sacred and
the practice of their community’s traditions is seen as never ending.
Therefore, there is no physical or geographic boundary between the sacred
and secular because there is no “secular.”  One could make this exact same
analogy for orthodox Christians, Muslims, or any other religion that sees a
god in every breath of the practitioner and every manifestation of the
physical world.

In order to balance the needs of the community use of a place and the
management of that place, clearly we will need some kind of boundary—the
world’s resources are needed by too many people to prevent multiple uses of
large landscapes in most instances.  If boundaries must be drawn, then they
should also be respected and direct physical disturbance of a TCP should
always be avoided.  The greatest care possible should also be exercised to
completely avoid impacting the place by other means such as audible and
visual impacts that degrade the traditional community’s use of their TCP.

Resource integrity
Resource integrity should be decided by the community that has claimed the
TCP.  An example in Minnesota is Coldwater Spring in the Twin Cities.
Dakota communities feel that although much industrial development has
occurred around the spring, the spring itself retains its integrity.  That
should be enough to establish integrity for the resource, regardless of
alternative views held by the NPS.  If the TCP process is community driven,
and I argue that it should be, then the community must serve as the
“expert” on whether or not a site retains sufficient integrity.
Archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, architects, or any other
non-member of that community does not have the appropriate cultural
background or training to make such a determination

Final thoughts
I think what underlies most of the problems with the current TCP process
can be traced back to two things.
      1)      The NHPA criteria for evaluation were developed primarily for
      evaluating buildings.  As we move away from buildings, the criteria
      are less applicable.  They actually don’t work all that well with
      archaeological sites and even less so with TCPs.  I think a valuable
      approach would be to start over with a blanks slate of evaluative
      criteria and guidelines that do not need to be related to the NHPA
      ones currently in effect.  TCPs are unique and our identification and
      evaluation of them should reflect this uniqueness.  Stop trying to
      cram them into the NHPA “historic building box.”  Perhaps allowing
      them to fall under both NHPA and NEPA socioeconomic impact statements
      would be a good idea.
      2)      The overall process needs to be more community driven.
      Archaeologists are great at finding archaeological sites,
      architectural historians are great at recording buildings, but
      neither have the professional skills necessary to adequately deal
      with dynamic living communities.  This is the job of cultural
      anthropologists.  Cultural anthropologists need to be required when
      TCP studies are initiated, preferably ones that already have a strong
      relationship built with a specific community or who are at least
      knowledgeable about who to talk with and how to get a community
      talking about TCPs.  If the goal of TCPs is to identify and hopefully
      protect places that traditional communities still hold dear, then
      those traditional communities need to “drive the bus” for
      identification and evaluation of the properties.  For this to really
      work, affected communities must be brought into the consultation
      process during scoping, before any alternatives have been decided and
      avoidance options have been ruled out.  I realize it may be “messy”
      and slower than the current system, but unless we are just going
      through the motions of heritage preservation then that is just part
      of it.  Meaningful development with positive results requires
      community support if the communities are to remain living where the
      development occurred with their traditions intact.

Thank you again for the opportunity to comment on this important process.
I am very supportive of your efforts.  If there is any other way I may be
of service, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Respectfully submitted,
Mark P. Muñiz, Ph.D., RPA
Associate Professor
Director, CRM Archaeology Graduate Program
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
St. Cloud State University

(pdf 54kb)

The National Register Program may wish to avoid qualifying any community/group/people as “traditional” in Bulletin No. 38.  As suggested in a previous comment, all communities are, in some sense, traditional.  But furthermore, consider that if the National Register Program seeks to engage traditional communities in the identification of TCPs, than the existence of “non-traditional communities” is implicit.  This could influence perceptions of cultural legitimacy that empower certain communities to assert their claims as stakeholders while eroding the ability of others to do the same.  Essentially, the use of this term by the National Register Program may inadvertently provide a cognitive framework for the oppression of certain communities from without, and may exacerbate the internalized oppression of colonialism (sensu Weaver 2001) within contemporary Native America.  It has been previously noted that the term “traditional community” is well-suited for some social groupings, but that it may not serve all groups who maintain important associations with cultural resources (Smythe 2009:18).



Smythe, Charles W. 2009.  Traditional Cultural Properties: Putting Concept into Practice.  The George Wright Forum, the GWS Journal of Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites, 26(1): 14-27.


Weaver, Hilary N.  2001. Indigenous Identity: What Is It, and Who Really Has It?  American Indian Quarterly 25(2):240-255.


Comments from the Hopi Tribe on September 4, 2012 (pdf 1KB)

Society for American Archaeology (SAA) comments (pdf 116 kb)

Bulletin 38 should not be modified in any way that would diminish its current effectiveness.   Any change made needs to further protection of Native Americantraditional cultural places.  In its current form Bulletin 38 is important to the entire California Indian community, including federally recognized tribes, non-federally recognized tribes, and California Indians that are not affiliated with contemporary tribes.  Bulletin 38 provides a direct path to  preserving sensitive cultural and spiritual sites significant to the California Indian community, not available under the California Environmental Quality Act (EQA).  CEQA has an inbuilt ethnocentric bias in the protection of what it describes as historical resources.  CEQA requires that any project that causes a substantial adverse change in the significance of a historical resource is a significant effect requiring the preparation of an environmental impact report (EIR).  An Archaeological resource is only determined to be significant, and impacts to it mitigated if it is determined to be a historical resource or a unique archaeological resource.  To qualify as a historical resource, an archaeological resource must:

Be associated with an event or person of recognized significance in California or American history or of recognized scientific importance in prehistory

Have a special or particular quality such as oldest, best example, largest, or last surviving example of its kind

  • Provide information that is of demonstrable public interest and is useful in addressing scientifically consequential and reasonable research questions
  • Involve important research questions that historical research has shown can be answered only with archaeological methods
  • Be at least 100 years old and possess substantial stratigraphic integrity

A unique archaeological resource will also qualify as a historic resource if it is:

  • On or eligible for the California Register of Historical Resources
  • On or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
    • Locally designated as historically significant, or
    • If the Lead Agency finds it to be historically significant based on substantial evidence

None of the above criteria makes any specific accommodation for the cultural and spiritual importance of historical resources or unique archaeological resources that the Native American community could identify as a traditional cultural places.  Significance is based onwhether or not these resources are of recognized scientific importance in prehistory, can provide scientifically consequential information, possess substantial stratigraphic integrity, orif it they can answerimportant research questions that historical research has shown can be answered only with archaeological methods.  If individual sites do not meet the criteria, they can be ignored and destroyed.  However, sites that do not meet the above criteria may in fact be contributing features to a Traditional Cultural Property, as identified through Bulletin 38, and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.  If so, impacts to them would be mitigated under CEQA.  While even in this case, data recovery can be chosen as the mitigation method, and too often is in the name of the recovery of scientifically consequential information, at least with the use of Bulletin 38, the possibility of site avoidance exists as a mitigation method, when without it it would not.  For the Native American Community, no amount of recovered scientific data can restore a site that has been destroyed by data recovery, physically or spiritually.

At this point, Bulletin 38 provides the only method of countering CEQA’s ethnocentric bias in cultural resource assessments.  Too often site assessments under CEQA ignore the possible presence of Traditional Cultural Properties. This week the Native American Heritage Commission was successful in a 7 year effort to stop a quarry project that would have destroyed a mountain sacred to the Choinimni people.  Using the fact that Bulletin 38 was not used by archaeologists in assessing the prehistoric sites on the mountain became an important element in the quest to save this sacred site.   It is my hope that more can be done to ensure that Bulletin 38 is universally used in cultural resource site assessments under CEQA.

Rob Wood
California Native American Heritage Commission


I have found Bulletin 38 extremely helpful in documenting a TCP I worked on with the Inupiat in Shishmaref, Alaska.  The larger problem in my experience with TCPs is that those who have the power to make the decision regarding whether or not a TCP is "eligible" for the National Register, have no understanding of the culture involved with or related to the TCP.  The value of Bulletin 38 is that it encourages people to think outside of the NR "box", and, in my opinion, that is where the problem lies............I am very concerned that the NR program, SHPOs, and government agency managers are driving the Bulletin 38 revision to make TCPs better fit into the "box."

I would hate to see the wisdom of Bulletin 38, the encouragement to think more broadly and respectfully, lost in the revision.  I agree with Dr. King's assessment of the "continuity of use" idea as an excuse to disallow a TCP from being listed on the NR, and I agree with his comments and assessment in general.  Mostly, I hope any changes to the TCP are driven by the tribes, THPOS, and other cultural groups, and that TCPs will be more readily and easily included in the NR.

Michele J. Curran, Ph.D. | Architectural Historian | National Park Service | Midwest Regional Office
              National Historic Landmarks Program

I certainly agree these properties exist, however I have reservations about
how a property type such as this will be determined eligible. I say this
from my experience in dealing with/addressing Traditional Cultural
Properties as well as my experiences in working with Native American
properties determined eligible under Criteria A. Certainly the burden for
conducting adequate identification on projects lies at the feet of
archaeologists/CRM professionals and in regard to Traditional Cultural
Landscapes (TCLs) thorough and detailed Native American consultation is
needed, However, I have been put in the situation a number of times where
things are said like "this is a place that our Tribe attaches religious and
cultural significance" or "we consider this a cultural landscape" or "this
is a traditional cultural property" and when I then pursue details both
directly and indirectly to help me understand why a person would consider a
place important, I'm given at most vagaries with little direct and helpful
information. Now, as noted in ACHPs Q&A paper regarding TCLs Tribes have a
right to keep certain information confidential and I don't doubt that at
times the vague information I've received is a result of this. ACHP goes
on and provides suggestions on how to ensure confidentiality through
working with NR staff, however in my experience I really find these
suggestions generally unworkable as even the basic information you note is
not provided in most instances. What worries me is that at times I wonder
if what I am really getting from Tribal members I am consulting with is
nothing more that terminology that someone garnered at a conference or
workshop and this terminology is being misused (and this can be done
purposefully or just in error). I state this as I regularly experience
this in regards to how basic 106 processes and definitions are
misinterpreted or misapplied by Tribes and individuals. I know this sounds
harsh but this is my experience.

One of the problems that often results if we accept that a property (TCP)
is eligible with little other than the assurance that a place is important,
we, the people tasked to address the effects of undertakings on historic
properties, are then unable to effectively determine if a property of this
type would be adversely effected. No pertinent information = no ability to
determine effect. Now the response of many on my concerns would be that
more consultation clearly is needed to seek out pertinent information. I
don't deny this, however I can honestly say that sometimes the result is
still not helpful information and you are left with nothing but having to
make a purely subjective eligibility call based on things like the
sincerity of those speaking to you or maybe how strongly someone advocates
for this.

What I would like to see if this property type is given status by ACHP is
that when a property type of this sort is identified it must have
attributes that can be documented. Confidentiality obviously needs to be
addressed, however sufficient information must be provided/gathered so that
effects can be adequately addressed.

I just want to know more info on this issue. I'm Native American from Ft. Belknap, MT and I'm doing research on the Medicine Wheel as a project for my job (Outreach Specialist).

You can see all comments on this post here:


Dear NPS Bulletin 38 Review folks: Below in the body of this e-mail please find my comments to the bulletin as it stands; I hope these are helpful to you as you move forward. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the below.

Thanks for the opportunity to comment,

Pei-Lin Yu
Cultural Specialist
Rocky Mountains Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit, National Park Service
Department of Anthropology, University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812
(phone number redacted)

“When first written, this document was a precedent-setter. The content is still solid. To keep it relevant, it should be addressed to a wider audience, including institutions of higher education and tribal resource programs, and a forum should be provided (by NPS, or ACHP) for information sharing.

General comments:

1. Widen the audience by adding to the formal bulletin a shortened primer or handbook that features plain English and frequently asked questions. Design it to be user-friendly in college and graduate curricula, include it in tribal trainings and certificate programs. Perhaps coordinate with the AAA and/or SAA to incorporate the new bulletin into their educational outreach.
2. Words like ‘putative’ and ‘ascription’ sound great but should be replaced with common English. I already have a hard enough time telling engineers and firefighters what a TCP is.
3. Provide a living forum for people to exchange information; the Bulletin in pdf form has felt quite static for 14 years. A cloud-based publically accessible site could include thematic areas and a place for people “in the field” to share examples to refresh and update the ones you already have; or best practices for consultation and safeguarding sensitive information.

Detailed comments:

Revising this document offers an opportunity to alleviate chronic confusion about TCPs and historic properties in general. Most folks who deal with historic properties use the term “cultural resources.” They may not understand what is meant by historic, or by property, and in my experience often think this term means only post-Euro-American contact and only buildings.

Since traditional cultural properties are a subset of historic properties, I suggest that the introductory language work downward as follows:

A. the NHPA Section 106 (16 U.S.C. 470f) (emphasis mine):

“The head of any Federal agency having direct or indirect jurisdiction over a proposed Federal or federally assisted undertaking in any State and the head of any Federal department or independent agency having authority to license any undertaking shall, prior to the approval of the expenditure of any Federal funds on the undertaking or prior to the issuance of any license, as the case may be, take into account the effect of the undertaking on any district, site, building, structure, or object that is included in or eligible for inclusion in the National Register. The head of any such Federal agency shall afford the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation established under Title II of this Act a reasonable opportunity to comment with regard to such undertaking.”

B. To what an historic property is:

The term "historic property" is defined in the NHPA as: "any prehistoric or historic district, site, building, structure, or object included in, or eligible for inclusion on the National Register"; such term includes artifacts, records, and remains which are related to such district, site, building, structure, or object. 16 U.S.C. Section 470(w)(5).

C. Then, narrow in on TCPs as a subset of historic properties:

“A traditional cultural property, then, can be defined generally as one that is eligible for inclusion in the National Register because of its association with cultural practices or beliefs of a living community that (a) are rooted in that community's history, and (b) are important in maintaining the continuing cultural identity of the community.”

Somewhere in the bulletin it needs to be very clear that TCPs are afforded the same considerations under law as non-TCP historic properties. A common misconception is that structures or archaeological sites are of higher value than TCPs like culturally significant natural features.”


While policy states that consultation begins when an Agency brings the Tribes together and starts working on how best to gather information, some (many) of the Tribes insist that consultation begins after project information/surveys are gathered, a report is written, and the elders/counsel/THPO’s can review and consult with the Agency on the findings. This becomes problematic when trying to merge the NEPA process with Section 106.

More guidance is needed on evaluating and addressing ‘Traditional Landscapes’.

Name and e-mail redacted by request


Lambasting Bulletin 38 doesn’t get us any closer to a solution. With that off my chest, might I suggest that working groups to tackle the individual issues and to produce a draft revision for all to review would be more productive than email comments? We know we need better (less subjective) definitions, we need tribal involvement in the discussion, we need alternatives, and a general re-write. Government agencies, Tribes, stakeholders, and the public can work together to provide guidance for us all.

Charlotte Hunter, PhD

To Whom It May Concern

Bulletin 38 works for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation when followed by state and federal agencies. Please be sure when making changes to the identification and evaluation of traditional places that the desire for change comes from the communities the bulletin serves. 

Guy Moura
Interim Program Manager, History/Archaeology
Tribal Historic Preservation Officer
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

To Whom It May Concern:

We do not use Bulletin 38 in Arkansas much, but have a few comments.

1)In reading through the bulletin, we wonder if the definition of a traditional community is too broad.  With the way that the bulletin is written, it almost seems like just about anything could be considered a traditional community.
2)We would like to see a more concrete example of application of the information beyond a Native American group, especially with respect to eligibility and definition of a TCP.
3)Some of our staff would like to see a better explanation of the interaction of TCPs, their eligibility (or ineligibility), and the Section 106 process.


Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.
Ralph S. Wilcox
National Register & Survey Coordinator
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program

I see that you have requested “comments on identifying, evaluating, and documenting traditional cultural properties and Native American landscapes” from “tribal, national, state, and local historic preservation partners, National Park Service regional offices and parks, other Federal agencies, and the public at large.”  Presumably because I fall into none of the above categories, you have not requested such comments from me, but I will provide them anyway, below.

You say:
With the 1990 release of National Register Bulletin 38, Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Traditional Cultural Properties, NPS clarified a broader scope of properties that could be considered eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NR) for their significance as Traditional Cultural Properties, and provided written guidance on working with these properties. 

Comment:  This is a misleading introduction, to the extent it is comprehensible as an English language sentence.  It implies that Bulletin 38 expanded the range of property types that could be considered eligible for the Register, and it did no such thing.  The Bulletin simply provided a name for such properties, examples of which had been determined eligible and listed on the Register since the very beginning of the Register’s existence, and provided some guidelines for identifying and evaluating them.

You say: 
This policy direction was followed by the provision in the 1992 amendment to the National Historic Preservation Act stating:  “Properties of traditional religious and cultural importance to an Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization may be determined to be eligible for inclusion in the National Register.” 

Comment:  It might be worth noting that this amendment did not appear out of thin air.  It was a tribally encouraged congressional reaction to the flat refusal by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Forest Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to pay any attention to Bulletin 38

You say:
While Bulletin 38 remains an essential, basic resource for identifying, evaluating, and documenting TCPs, in recent years the number of requests for additional assistance in this regard from State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, Federal agencies, and preservation professionals has increased significantly. 

Comment:  It may be revealing that such requests have apparently not come from tribes or members of the public.  Does this tell you anything?
You then list a series of topics on which you are considering publication of more “guidance.”  Let me first suggest that you take a good hard look at the guidance you already have, and consider ways to resolve inconsistencies that exist among the voluminous piles of paper you have generated in the past.  This should certainly be done before you burden the world with MORE of the stuff.  Let me also suggest that if you’re going to issue guidance, you get help from people who know something about the subject, and that you pay some attention to the literature that has been produced in the last 22 years dealing with it.  I realize that these suggestions may run counter to long-standing NPS policy.

Below are comments on each of the points on which you say guidance is in order:
·         What constitutes a “traditional” community
Comment:  A traditional community is a community that values its traditions, including but not limited to communities of American citizens.

·             “Continuity of use” by a traditional community
Comment:  I am at a loss to understand where and how you have come up with this “continuity of use” nonsense.  It is not in the Bulletin, but NPS keeps coughing it up as an excuse for not recognizing a place as eligible.  It is particularly galling when applied to a tribal property.  “Well, sure, we ran all over you militarily, killed most of you with our diseases, marched your survivors off to a reservation 500 miles away from this place you say you value, and imprisoned you there – so gee, we’re sorry, but you haven’t continued your use of the place, so it’s not eligible.”  You really should be ashamed of yourselves for even murmuring this sort of insulting drivel.
·         Evolving uses of resources by a traditional community

Comment:  Yes, they evolve, as do communities.  So what?  What business is it of yours whether and how they do?

·         Multiple lines of documentary evidence
Comment:  Multiple lines of evidence happen.  Sometimes they accord with one another, sometimes they conflict.  That’s life.  So what?

·         Broad ethnographic landscapes
Comment:  Broad or narrow, the term “ethnographic landscape” is insulting to those who value cultural landscapes; it implies that a landscape is important because of its role in ethnographic research.  It may be, but that’s usually beside the point.  Traditional cultural landscapes (including but not limited to many "Native American landscapes") are simply that – traditional cultural properties that happen to be landscapes, landscapes that have traditional cultural value.  Ethnography has nothing to do with it.  Please discard the term.

·         Property boundaries
Comment:  As Bulletin 38 says, boundaries are often difficult if not impossible to define.  They are usually arbitrary, and usually irrelevant to the way a community (notably a tribe) defines the place.  They comprise an artifact of the National Register’s roots in local planning and zoning.  They are often irrelevant to determining effects under NHPA Section 106 – the real world context in which traditional cultural properties are most often considered.  Any guidance should stress that they need be defined only to the extent there is a practical reason for doing so.

·         Resource integrity
Comment:  If the people who value a place say it has integrity, it has integrity.  It is that simple.  The place is significant in people’s minds, so if in their minds it has integrity, it obviously has integrity.  This is not rocket science.

You go on to say that you are willing to consider other “user-identified” TCP-related issues.  I doubt if you would define me as a “user,” and I do not intend to cater to the Register’s intellectual lassitude by re-stating what I have written in the past.  Rather, I request that you consider the issues discussed in at least the following of my publications:
·     Places that Count: Traditional Cultural Properties in Cultural Resource Management.  AltaMira Press 2003
·      “Rethinking Traditional Cultural Properties?”  George Wright Forum 26:1:28-36, 2009, George Wright Society, Washington DC.
·     “A Listless Approach to Resource Management.”  Heritage Management 3:1:97-100, 2010.
·     Chapters relevant to traditional cultural properties in CRMudgeoneity.  Kindle Books,, 2011

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.  I trust you will not find my comments "inappropriate ..... or misleading or discriminartory" (sic).
Thomas F. King, PhD