Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thinking about tribal consultation

I seem to be reblogging just about everything that Tom King posts these days. Here I go again. Dr. King continues his critique of CRM in a new post, in which he argues eloquently that consultation, with tribes and others, is really the core of historic preservation law, though in practice it is often neglected in favor of formulaic and bureaucratic approaches to management.

On CRM practitioners:
I naively continue to be surprised by how reluctant many who purport to value cultural and historic preservation (not just expect to make a living at it) consider it unnecessary and/or scary to consult with interested parties about those resources.
The big finale:
It can be scary, no question about it, and it also can be irritating, frustrating, time consuming, and generally a pain in the backside. This is particularly the case because those interested parties – whether they’re tribes or others – probably don’t speak our specialized language; they may not relate very well to the National Register Criteria or the Criteria of Adverse Effect. They may not split hairs the way we do, and they may split different hairs. But the fact remains – here I go on my soap box again – that Congress enacted NHPA and other such laws not for the convenience and enjoyment of CRM practitioners and government officials, but to ensure consideration for places that citizens – that is, taxpayers, voters – care about. And when, in the 1980s, we failed to pay proper attention to the concerns of tribes, the tribes prevailed on Congress to change the law and remind us of our duty. However inconvenient it may be, I don’t think we’re doing our jobs – whether we’re consultants, federal officials, or SHPOs – if we close our eyes to the law’s clear direction to consult with tribes and others. And in evaluating historic places, we can’t pretend that archaeologists speak for anybody but themselves, about what’s important to them. They certainly don’t speak for tribes unless the tribes authorize them to.

1 comment: