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Tribal Historic Preservation Summit looks forward into the future

By Lailani Upham

PABLO — It is the first year the Tribal Historic Preservation degree program has ever been offered at Salish Kootenai College, or any tribal college or any university or college in the United States for that matter – and last month the first Montana Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Summit was held on campus to gather representatives from each reservation to discuss issues, and strengthen bonds within the tribes’ historic preservation programs.

Preparing for the next generation and looking at the future direction were the centered goals of the gathering, stated Dr. Jeffery Bendremer, SKC Tribal Historic Preservation Program Director.

The new degree program includes an associate of arts degree and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Tribal Historic Preservation.

The program is designed with a hearty course of native language, anthropology, Native studies and history, Indian law, and natural resources.

Approximately 35 people participated in the Summit and 18 were SKC students.

“Presently, the world of cultural resources management is young, and not generating a whole lot interest amongst the people or tribal councils of Montana-Wyoming. This Summit serves as disseminating event, and could illustrate the importance of cultural resource management for the future,” stated John Murray, Blackfeet Tribal Historic Tribal Preservation Officer.

“I felt the THPO Summit was a very good format for Montana/Wyoming THPO to share information, issues and common concerns. If this could be an annual event, the content of the meetings and presentations would grow as an educational event,” Murray stated.

“I thought this was an important summit; with the new program at SKC focused on Tribal Historic Preservation, it is important to meet with the next generation of professionals in the field - both for the current THPOs and the students,” stated participant Bob O’Boyle Chippewa Cree Tribal Archaeologist.

O’Boyle said having such a summit is beneficial to all involved and meeting the students and hearing their questions help the current THPOs reflect on the current direction of their programs as well as the future.

“The Ojibwe and Nêhiyawi of Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation are looking to the future of our Cultural Resource Program and we need to make sure we have the best people possible - this means getting them the training they need to succeed and prosper. We are definitely working on ways to get our next generation of Tribal Cultural Resource practitioners her at SKC for this program,” O’Boyle added.

“I think the meeting was rather unique because it provided the students and the public an opportunity to attend the meeting and understand the position and role that the Tribal Historic Preservation Office’s play in the management of cultural resources on and off the reservation. It also provided the THPOs and opportunity to discuss how they could provide more training and certification for Cultural Resource Technicians in their offices,” stated Mark Sant, Bureau of Land Management officer.

Sant added the Summit provides not only an avenue to discuss major issues that are common to all THPO programs but it also serves as platform to share ideas on one major topic – lack of appropriate funding.

Sant said, “Secondly, if the THPOs can provide a unified stance, or are in agreement on specific issues or concerns it certainly would carry additional weight both with federal agencies, but also with their respective tribal governments as well.”

Sant added that as federal agencies increase their tribal consultation efforts, it is important to find ways to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of these efforts in discovering ways to enhance tribal consultation efforts to insure that American Indian concerns are being adequately identified and considered during the course of the federal agency’s decision making process.

During the Summit discussions on working collaboratively, the group came up with an offer to organize the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leadership Council to get the topic placed on the next agenda to identify ways the federal tribal consultation processes could be more efficient and effective.

Sant discussed several tribal partnerships The Bureau of Land Management has been developing. “One of these projects involves the development of a formal paid internship program between SKC and the BLM-Missoula Field Office, where the BLM provides funding to SKC to pay for student interns. The interns spend the summer mentoring in their chosen field of study with BLM employees.”

“Given the positive comments about this Summit by the THPO’s, we plan to be a part of growing the Summit. The THPO Summit sessions and discussions highlighted the current events that Tribal Historic Preservation Officers are working on daily as they work closely with their Tribal elders, community and Tribal and Federal Government. These are very serious issues impacting all of us and having this Summit at our College was an excellent venue,” stated Elaine Frank, SKC Interim President.

The project for the Tribal Historic Preservation degree was called “We the People” and was a special initiative defined through NEH “to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through the support of projects that explore significant events and themes in our nation’s history and culture and that advance knowledge of the principles that define America.” The project involved an advisory committee of seven people from near and far with expertise and insight.

The members who were included in the process were: Marcia Pablo, former Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Preservation Department Head; Francis Auld, CSKT Tribal Preservation Assistant Director and Tribal Historic Preservation official; John Murray, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Blackfeet Tribe; Larry J. Zimmerman, Professor of Anthropology and Museum Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Public Scholar of Native American Representation with Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art; Sonya Atalay, a professor of Anthropology at the University of Indiana; Dr. Bambi Kraus, President of the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation; and Jeffery Bendremer.

“In another way the meeting was very beneficial in that all the seven nations of Montana were able to get together focusing on cultural resources. To be able to get together and discuss - face to face - is invaluable. It strengthens the bond as nations, and gives the tribes a louder voice when we speak to an issue in unison. Plus, we get to get together and steal each others good ideas and jokes, and bring them back to strengthen our current program,” stated O’Boyle.

The Montana Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Summit was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Bureau of Land Management.

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