The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) formally endorsed a plan to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at its Winter Business Meeting on March 1, 2013.

“This is an opportunity to promote better stewardship and protection of Native historic properties and sacred places, and in doing so helps to ensure survival of indigenous cultures,” said Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA, ACHP chairman. “The Declaration reinforces the agency’s principles and goals contained in our Native American Traditional Cultural Landscapes Action Plan and other works with Native Hawaiian organizations and tribes.”

John L. Berrey, Chairman of the Quapaw Tribe, is the Native American member on the 23-member ACHP. He moved that the ACHP endorse the Declaration plan. The motion was approved unanimously. It is believed that the ACHP is the first federal agency to adopt such a plan.

Under the plan, the ACHP will raise awareness about the Declaration within the preservation community; make information about the Declaration available on its Web site; develop guidance on the intersection of the Declaration with the Section 106 process; reach out to the archaeological community about the Declaration and the conduct of archaeology in the United States; and generally integrate the Declaration into its initiatives such as the Traditional Cultural Landscapes Action Plan.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 13, 2007, with 143 nations in favor, 34 not-participating, and four opposed. Among the four opposing the measure at that time was the United States of America. Subsequently, the U.S. took a formal review of its position in consultation with Indian tribes and other parties. On December 16, 2010, President Barack Obama announced U.S. support for the Declaration and the State Department issued a formal announcement. The Declaration is not legally binding but is an inspirational international instrument that includes a broad range of provisions regarding the relationship among nations, organizations, and indigenous peoples.

The ACHP oversees federal compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, which stipulates that federal undertakings must take into account the resultant impact of actions on historic properties. In this role, the ACHP works on a government-to-government basis with federally recognized Indian tribes. It has established an Office of Native American Affairs and, among many other efforts, has published extensive guidance regarding various tribal and Native Hawaiian organizations to inform and assist federal Section 106 efforts.