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The National Academies

NCHRP 25-25/Task 114 [Anticipated]

Integrating Tribal Knowledge into Processes to Identify, Evaluate, and Record Cultural Resources
[ NCHRP 25-25 (Research for the AASHTO Committee on Environment and Sustainability) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $125,000
Staff Responsibility: Ann M. Hartell
Comments: In development
Fiscal Year: 2018

There is a lack of consistent approaches among Transportation Agencies and SHPOs towards integrating Tribal knowledge into the process of identifying, evaluating and recording of the types of features and sites that may possess intrinsic values important to the continued well-being of indigenous peoples. Typically, archaeologists are charged with the identification, evaluation and recordation of such features and sites.  Although technically proficient in Western scientific methods, most non-Native, academically trained archaeologists are challenged in making a determination of what Tribal cultural and spiritual values are likely to be ascribed to certain features and sites without significant input from Tribal representatives and thoughtful integration of Tribal knowledge into the assessment.


An example of sites that possess intrinsic values important to the well-being of indigenous peoples are stone features on the Northern Plains. These stone feature sites are the equivalent of a history book to the Tribes from a time before the written word was adopted. Excavation of these sites disrupts the written history in stone and breaks the spiritual connection. Yet identification and evaluation of these stone features are typically done without tribal expertise and excavation of these resources persists.


There is a need to understand the differences in the professional and tribal perspectives and how these differences shape the identification and evaluation of cultural resources in connection with transportation projects. Documentation of current approaches to engaging Tribes and incorporating Tribal knowledge in the Section 106 process can inform future directions for improved methods to enhance tribal participation and strengthen understanding between professional and tribal perspectives.

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