Managing Agency National Park Service

Program Description

The THPO Designation process is how a Tribe applies to assume the functions of a State Historic Preservation Officer on tribal lands, protecting and conserving important Tribal cultural and historic assets and sites. This process does not entail funding, but is the process through which a Tribe can appoint an approved Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, and become eligible for further THPO funding. Becoming a designated THPO also makes a Tribe eligible for annually-apportioned funding through the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF).

Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs) 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 is legislated in Title 54 of the United States Code (commonly known as the The National Historic Preservation Act). Before a Tribe assumes many, most or all of functions of a State Historic Preservation Officer, the 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.

General Program Requirements

Eligibility for the THPO program is limited to (1) federally recognized tribes that have (2) either a reservation and/or tribal trust lands.

Your Next Steps

The following information will lead you to the next steps to apply for this program.

Application Process

Step 1. Determine eligibility - THPO program is limited to federally recognized tribes that have a reservation and/or tribal trust lands.

Step 2. Submit paper application with these components.

I. A signed, written request to assume functions of the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) on tribal lands signed by the Tribe’s chief governing authority.

II. If item I. does not designate the THPO, documentation such as an additional resolution, tribal ordinance or executive letter of appointment that identifies the THPO and provides their contact information.

III. A program plan that contains the following elements:

  1. A descriptive narrative of tribal lands including a copy of Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) documentation that clearly states the total acreage of tribal trust land, and map(s) if the Tribe has lands in trust outside the reservation boundaries.
  2. A description of program staff or consultants needed to provide the THPO with access to individuals who meet the Secretary of the Interior's Historic Preservation Professional Qualification Standards.
  3. A description of how the Tribe has established an advisory review board to provide advice for the THPO.
  4. An explanation of how the THPO program will provide appropriate participation by the Tribe’s traditional cultural authorities, by representatives of other Tribes whose traditional lands may now be within the Tribe’s jurisdiction, and by the interested public.
  5. An acknowledgement required by the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) that non-tribal property owners within the boundaries of the tribal lands may request the participation by the SHPO in addition to the THPO in any decisions pursuant to the Act that affect that property. Note: NHPA has been re-enacted and codified as 54 USC 301 et seq. but is still commonly referred to as NHPA.
  6. A list of NHPA functions the Tribe is proposing to assume.
  7. A list of NHPA functions that will remain with the SHPO.
  8. A description of how each assumed function will be performed.
  9. A description of the Tribe’s current Historic Preservation Program or activities as they relate to the functions the Tribe is proposing to assume.

A request to assume Historic Preservation Officer functions, (the “proposal”) may be submitted at any time during the year, but the application accompanying a request must be received, approved, and a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Tribe and the National Park Service signed, by the June 30 date prior to the fiscal year for which the Tribe wishes to enter into the THPO program.

To maximize available time for plan revisions and to facilitate the certification process, NPS encourages the submission of Tribal Historic Preservation Office program applications as early as possible. Annual funding allocations for approved THPO programs are made after the beginning of each fiscal year (October 1).

Please read the guidelines carefully before starting a draft of the Tribe’s program plan. Applicants are encouraged to contact the National Park Service’s Tribal Preservation Program Manager to clarify any aspect of the application’s required components or of the approval process. The Tribe may share a rough draft of the proposal (complete with a tribal resolution) for NPS comment to help improve the THPO Program Plan before a formal submission of the request. The Tribe’s submission will be acknowledged upon receipt and a written response provided within forty-five calendar days.

Final approval of a proposal for the Tribe’s assumption of NHPA responsibilities on tribal lands is a signed MOA executed between the Tribe, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Tribe’s THPO Program becomes eligible to apply for federally-apportioned Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) grant monies upon MOA approval. While the THPO HPF grant annual apportionment is non-competitive, the funding must be applied for in a separate application process.

Please submit the Tribe’s THPO proposal in an email to

Program Contact Information

James Bird
Chief of the Tribal Historic Preservation Program

Other contacts include:
Jamie Lee Marks (program assistant)

Joe Watkins, PhD
American Indian Liaison Officer
Chief, Tribal Relations & American Cultures
Supervisory Cultural Anthropologist

Additional Information

Tribes Funded by this Program163
Entities Eligible for Grant AssistanceFederally Recognized Tribes and Tribal Organizations
Current Method of Tribal EligibilityProgram Only for Tribes/Native Organizations
Do Tribes compete with other entities for funding from the program?No
Type of Assistance ProvidedMemorandum of Agreement only (no funds)
Funding TypeDiscretionary
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) NumberN/A No funds attached

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