Traditional Cultural Properties : a potential tool for community-driven historic preservation



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National Register Bulletin 38: Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Traditional Cultural Properties was first published in 1990 as a response to the Secretary of the Interior's report Cultural Conservation. Submitted to Congress and the President in 1983, Cultural Conservation "recommended in general that traditional cultural more systematically addressed in implementation of the National Historic Preservation Act and other historic preservation authorities." Bulletin 38 defined Traditional Cultural Properties (TCPs), as those "whose significance is derived from the role the property plays in a community's historically rooted beliefs, customs, and practices." Bulletin 38 provides guidance in determining whether properties of traditional cultural significance are potentially eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). This thesis investigates whether or not the NRHP Criteria, and guidelines set forth in Bulletin 38, provide adequate protection for non-tribal TCPs under the NHPA. An outline of applicable federal regulations and procedures for identification and evaluation of historic properties provides a framework for evaluating TCPs. Examination of four cases studies, Mt. Graham, Bighorn Medicine Wheel/Medicine Mountain, the Dune Shacks of the Peaked Hill Bars, and Gladesmen Folk Culture, illustrates several fundamental difficulties in the treatment of TCPs. First, emphasis on professionalization within the fields of Cultural Resource Management and Historic Preservation has discouraged consideration of community perspectives in the identification and evaluation of both tribal and non-tribal historic sites. Second, divergent viewpoints between federal agencies, Native American tribes, professional practitioners, and individual communities prevent meaningful consultation and cooperation. Third, the existing standards and guidelines for identification and evaluation of TCPs are vague, and subject to variable interpretation. Finally, a conflict of interest exists between agencies and communities when considering properties located on federally owned land. In order for TCPs, especially non-tribal TCP's, to receive adequate attention and protection agencies and professionals need to change how they implement and interpret the procedures and guidelines set forth in the NHPA. This thesis concludes with suggestions for improving the process of identifying and evaluating non-tribal TCPs. It advocates creating independent, regional sub-committees to make informed recommendations and determinations of eligibility for TCPs located on federally owned land. Finally, it outlines strategies for promoting more community involvement in the NRHP review process through training programs administered by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.