Washington, D.C. – Advisory Council on Historic Preservation members today unanimously approved a groundbreaking Policy Statement on Indigenous Knowledge and Historic Preservation, following extensive outreach and coordination with Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiians, federal agencies, and State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers. The policy statement tailors the government-wide Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Indigenous Knowledge to the needs of the historic preservation community.

Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiians, and other Indigenous Peoples are the original stewards of what is now known as the United States and its various territories and jurisdictions. Having existed here for countless generations, they have accumulated extensive experiences with, information about, and knowledge of the natural and cultural environment. This knowledge is often referred to as Indigenous Knowledge. Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiians, and other Indigenous Peoples rely upon their Indigenous Knowledge to interact with sacred sites and historic properties of religious and cultural significance to them.

This policy reinforces that Indigenous Knowledge should be recognized as an independent, valid, and self-supporting line of evidence meant to support program, policy, and procedural decisions related to historic preservation, and recognizes designated representatives of Indian Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations as the appropriate subject matter experts capable of informing decision making related to such knowledge.

“Federal agencies, state and local governments, and nongovernmental institutions should respect the value of and actively seek to incorporate Indigenous Knowledge into their programs and decision making,” ACHP Chair Sara C. Bronin said. “This long-overdue policy establishes a set of principles intended to guide and reshape–for the better–preservation-related decisions affecting Tribal, Native Hawaiian, and other Indigenous Peoples.”

ACHP Tribal Member and Chairman of the Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Committee Reno Keoni Franklin said the unanimous vote speaks to the ACHP’s efforts to listen to Tribes.

“We heard directly from Tribal leadership to craft this important policy,” Franklin said. “This will change and level the playing field. It will not only assist government agencies when working with Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiians, and other Indigenous Peoples but also protect the knowledge that they impart to federal agencies.”

The policy statement puts forth 12 principles affirming the crucial importance of Indigenous Knowledge to historic preservation. These principles place an emphasis on respecting Indigenous Knowledge in all circumstances and developing and maintaining a positive and mutually beneficial relationship with Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and other Indigenous Peoples.

The policy also calls on the preservation community to ensure the appropriate amount of time and resources are dedicated to the identification, documentation, utilization, management, and safeguarding of Indigenous Knowledge, along with developing guidance to inform these activities. An overarching goal of the policy is to ensure the Indigenous Knowledge of Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiians, and other Indigenous Peoples has an equitable and ongoing role in the decision-making process, recognizing the history of federal-Tribal/Native Hawaiian relations has not consistently or effectively accounted for this information.

Read the full policy.

The ACHP will take a number of actions to implement the policy statement, including training staff, developing guidance and informational resources that further inform the application and intent of the policy, and seeking opportunities to implement policy principles into Section 106 agreement documents and program alternatives.


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