About THPOs

What are Tribal Historic Preservation Officers?

What Are Tribal Historic Preservation Plans?

What is the History of THPO Funding?

The Historic Preservation Fund (HPF)

Timeline and Important Benchmarks


What are Tribal Historic Preservation Officers?

Tribal Historic Preservation Officers are officially designated by a federally-recognized Indian tribe to direct a program approved by the National Park Service and the THPO must have assumed some or all of the functions of State Historic Preservation Officers on Tribal lands. This program was made possible by the provisions of Section 101(d)(2) of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Before a Tribe may assume the functions of a State Historic Preservation Officer, the National Historic Preservation Act requires Tribes to submit a formal plan to the National Park Service describing how the proposed Tribal Historic Preservation Officer functions will be carried out.

Tribal historic preservation plans have emphasized the importance of the oral tradition, as well as consulting Tribal elders and spiritual leaders with special knowledge of the Tribe's traditions. They also have given emphasis to the importance of protecting "traditional cultural properties," places that are eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places because of their association with cultural practices and beliefs that are:
(1) rooted in the history of the community; and
(2) are important to maintaining the continuity of that community's traditional beliefs and practices

Incorporating Tribal cultural values into the historic preservation program has been consistently cited as a priority. Finally, the need for assuming the responsibility for reviewing Federal undertakings that may affect historical properties and the importance of archaeological survey work was consistently mentioned as essential. Tribal Historic Preservation Officers advise Federal agencies on the management of Tribal historic properties and strive to preserve their Tribes' cultural heritage and preservation programs.

THPOs perform a variety of important functions in their communities. Click here for examples of what THPOs do in their communities

What Are Tribal Historic Preservation Plans?

The THPOs and NATHPO (provides support to the individual THPOs) are committed to implementing tribal and Federal preservation laws on Tribal lands, including Federally-mandated archaeological clearances and evaluation and management of Tribal historic properties. NATHPO provides technical assistance to Tribes seeking approval of Tribal Historic Preservation Programs and develops and provides technical training in all aspects of historic and cultural heritage preservation, maintenance and revitalization, including:

  • Directing and conducting a comprehensive reservation-wide survey of historic properties and maintaining inventories of those properties

  • Identifying and nominating eligible properties to the National Register and administering applications for listing historic properties on the National Register

  • Preparing and implementing a comprehensive Tribal historic preservation plan

  • Administering the Tribal program of Federal assistance for historic preservation at the reservation (when funds are appropriated by the U S Congress)

  • Advising and assisting, when appropriate, Federal and State agencies and local governments in carrying out their historic preservation responsibilities

  • Cooperating with the Secretary of Interior, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and other Federal and State agencies, local governments, and organizations and individuals to ensure that historic properties are taken into consideration at all levels of planning and development

  • Providing public information, education and training, and technical assistance in historic preservation

  • Cooperating with local governments in developing local historic preservation programs and assisting local governments in certification (when feasible)

  • Consulting with the appropriate Federal agencies in accordance with the Act on Federal undertakings that may affect historic properties and the content and sufficiency of any plans developed to protect, manage, or to reduce or mitigate harm to such properties

  • Advising and assisting in evaluating proposals for rehabilitation projects that may qualify for Federal assistance

What is the History of THPO Funding?

In 1996, American Indian tribal governments began entering into agreements with the National Park Service to assume (1) the State Historic Preservation Officer responsibilities under the 1992 amendments to the National Historic Preservation Act; and (2) to receive funding from the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service. In its first year of operation, 12 Tribal THPOs received a total of $958,500. In 1999, $1,320,000 (from a total of $72,412,000) was earmarked from the Historic Preservation Fund to support the operations of 17 Tribal Historic Preservation Offices. In FY2000, $1,500,000 supported 22 Tribal THPOs; in FY2001, $4.1 million was distributed among available 27 THPOs.

In FY2002, however, funding for each individual approved was decreased by approximately 50% because of insufficient monies in the Historic Preservation Fund to support current and additional THPOs at the earlier level. In FY2004, the average THPO grant is down to $52,432 per tribe.

Click here to view detailed THPO funding history.


The Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) was created by the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act and is supported by annual revenues from Outer Continental Shelf oil leases and assists states, local governments, Indian tribes and Historically Black Colleges and Universities with their historic preservation activities nationwide.

Click here for the most recent HPF funding levels.


Timeline and Important Benchmarks - Creation of the THPO Program as of July 28, 2008

National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (Public Law 89-665)

  • Created the State and Federal Historic Preservation Partnership. Funding to states and tribes from the historicPreservation Fund.

1992 Amendments to the NHPA (Public Law 102-575 -- 16 USC 470) Included in the amendments was an enhanced role for tribes in the national preservation program and enhanced protection to places of cultural significance to Indians and Native Hawaiian organizations. Specifically, the amendments –

  • Allowed for the creation of THPO programs and funding mechanism

  • Allowed for creation of tribal competitive grant program

  • Included language stating that one presidentially-appointed member of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation will be a Native American or Native Hawaiian.

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation Promulgates Regulations of 1992 Amendments

  1. On October 3, 1994, ACHP published the first Draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the Protection of Historic Properties (36 CFR Part 800). The comments received were so negative, the Council told the staff to start over.

  2. On September 13, 1996, the Council publishes a second NPRM.

  3. Without publishing a Final Rule, the ACHP develops another Draft, dated June 5, 1997, but still does not consult with Indian Tribes on its content.

  4. On June 20, 1997, ACHP staff are directed to consult with Indian Tribes in a series of four tribal consultation meetings held throughout the country.

  5. On October 24, 1997, the Council membership approves another version and on November 20, 1997, submits it to the Office of Management and Budget.

  6. Another Draft Rulemaking published in Federal Register on September 13, 1999.

  7. Final Rule is published in Federal Register on May 18, 1999, and went into effect June 17, 1999.

  8. On February 15, 2000, the National Mining Association files a lawsuit in federal court against the ACHP for the May 1999 Rule.

  9. Lawsuit decision rejects the challenge against the tribal provisions in the May 1999 regulations.

  10. ACHP begins educational sessions on the new regulations in 2000.


THPO Funding History Since Inception Fiscal Year 1996 (Oct. 1, 1995 - Sept. 30, 1996)

  • FY1996: First THPO programs funded. Average grant award was $79,875 for 12 THPOs.

  • FY1997: Second year of THPO funding. Average grant award was $65,714 for 14 THPOs.

  • FY1998: Third year of support. Average grant award was $65,882 for 15 THPOs.

  • FY1999: Fourth year of support. Average grant award was $77,647 for 17 THPOs.

  • FY2000: Fifth year of support. Average grant award was $68,182 for 22 THPOs.

  • FY2001: Sixth year of support. Average grant award was $154,815 for 27 THPOs.

  • FY2002: Seventh year of support. Average grant award was $72,581 for 31 THPOs.

  • FY2003: Eighth year of support. Average grant award was $64,286 for 35 THPOs.

  • FY2004: Ninth year of support. Average grant award was $52,432 for 43 THPOs.

  • FY2005: Tenth year of support. Average grant award is $48,165 for 52 THPOs.

  • FY2006: Eleventh year of funding. Average grant award was $54,947 for 58 THPOs.
  • FY2007: Twelfth year of funding. Average grant award was $73,079 for 66 THPOs.
  • FY2008: Thirteenth year of funding. Average grant award is $75,267 for 76 THPOs.


National Park Service Program Implementation

To open, read and print many of our documents you must have the Adobe Acrobat Reader. This free download is available by clicking on the button.