The Section 106 review process requires federal agencies to consider the impacts of undertakings they carry out, license, or assist on properties determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, including those with religious and cultural significance to Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations (NHOs). Understanding how the significance of historic properties of cultural and religious significance to Indian tribes and NHOs is determined and effects to them are resolved, in consultation with Indian tribes and NHOs, is crucial to successful Section 106 reviews. The purpose of this paper is to explain the important role traditional knowledge can play in meeting these requirements.
Although the term “traditional knowledge” (TK) is not defined in the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) or its implementing regulations, its role in the Section 106 process is necessitated by the requirement, at 36 CFR Section 800.4, that agency officials “acknowledge that Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations (NHOs) possess special expertise in assessing the eligibility of historic properties that may possess religious and cultural significance to them.” Traditional knowledge is an integral part of that special expertise. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) applies the term “traditional knowledge,” for purposes of Section 106, to the information or knowledge held by Indian tribes and NHOs and used for identifying, evaluating, assessing, and resolving adverse effects to historic properties of religious and cultural significance to them.
The NHPA clarifies that properties of religious and cultural significance to Indian tribes and NHOs may be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. It also requires federal agencies, in carrying out the Section 106 review process, to consult with Indian tribes and NHOs when historic properties of religious and cultural significance to them may be affected by a federal undertaking. The ACHP’s regulations implementing Section 106, 36 CFR Part 800, in turn, require federal agencies to consult with Indian tribes and NHOs throughout the Section 106 review process.
This paper focuses on traditional knowledge of Indian tribes and NHOs and its role in the Section 106 process. For purposes of this paper and out of respect, Native Hawaiians will be referred to as kanaka maoli unless the legal rights of NHOs are being discussed. The term “Native Hawaiian organization” refers to certain groups who have the right to participate in the Section 106 review process. Kanaka maoli is the Hawaiian word, roughly translated as “the people” or “true people.” It should also be noted that the actual name of each Indian tribe should be used to address the tribe in the consultation process.
This paper includes appendices with examples of how kanaka maoli, Indian tribes, intertribal organizations, federal and state agencies, and international bodies explain and address traditional knowledge. The tribal information was generously provided by tribal representatives and the Hawaiian information from kanaka maoli to help educate others about the importance of traditional knowledge and its place in their worlds. The information is presented as it was submitted to the ACHP. The ACHP acknowledges that sharing and discussing traditional knowledge can be sensitive and is grateful to all those who helped draft this paper and provided information for the appendices. The appendices will be updated as additional information is provided to the ACHP.