In its ongoing work to preserve the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s historical sites and artifacts, the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) has secured a federal grant from the National Parks Service to survey sites formerly or currently held by members of the tribe.
Over the next year, CPN plans to survey 12 individual properties with a total area of 80 acres.
“When we get a request for property review, I research for any prior use of the property,” said Jeremy Arnette, Assistant Tribal Heritage Preservation Officer. “This typically includes a search of hand drawn surveys from as early as the 1870s, as well as maps produced by USGS throughout the 20th century, and our own allotment records.”
Interstate highway construction, along with federally assisted projects on tribal lands necessitated the upcoming year’s surveys. The grant’s funding is also intended to help the THPO consult on approximately 400 projects that lay outside of tribal lands, yet are of historic relevance to the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
“We are looking for anything of historical or cultural significance, which is necessarily a very broad definition,” explained Dr. Kelli Mosteller, CPN’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. “The tribe has the right to classify what is significant to them, so it can range from foundations of deteriorated buildings, traces of former allotment homesteads, to the existence of plants that serve a cultural role as traditional medicines.”
CPN’s surveyors’ role is to identify sites and structures that fall within the jurisdiction of a comprehensive historic preservation plan. Once identified, CPN will make recommendations about how best to deal with those properties.
“Tribal Historic Preservation Officers are vital to ensure that care is taken not to destroy or disturb cultural sites and associated objects that are important to tribes,” said Mosteller. “Any entity receiving federal funds to carry out a project has the obligation to consult with the tribes and try to mitigate any adverse effects to areas the tribe deems culturally significant. We do not have the authority to shut a project down or turn back the excavation equipment, but we can make the companies come to the table and talk about alternatives, like changing the route of a road or reducing the footprint of a project.”
To keep up to date with the latest surveying techniques, CPN will also participate at this year’s National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers conference. Tribal representatives will also attend the Oklahoma State Preservation Conference and consult with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The materials produced by the surveys are based upon work assisted by a grant from the Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Interior.