Office of Historic Preservation



















The Office of Historic Preservation is an arm of the Pawnee Nation which has been duly designated to protect, preserve and restore the cultural heritage of the Pawnee People to the greatest extent possible.  

Pawnee cultural heritage was once passed from generation to generation through oral traditions, but most was lost along with declining populations during the 19th and 20th centuries.  Pre-19th century Pawnee populations numbered in the tens of thousands and their presence extended over parts of eight states in the Central, Southern, Northern and High Plains regions of America.  Nebraska and Kansas were the geographical center of these populations.  

However, at the beginning of the 20th century, Pawnee populations had been reduced to a little over 500 individuals residing in what is now Pawnee County, Okla. At the beginning of the 21st century, thanks to Pawnee Mothers, the Pawnee population is now approximately 3,500 individuals and steadily increasing.  The Pawnee Nation is now making a concerted effort to preserve what is left, and restore what they can.  

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), Section 101(d)(2) is the basis for the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) Program.  It reads in part: “A Tribe may assume all or any part of the functions of a State Historic Preservation Officer with respect to Tribal lands.”  

In 2011, with partial assistance from a National Park Service grant, the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma opened the doors to its Office of Historic Preservation and became the 102nd Indian Nation to assume authority over Historic Preservation duties on their own lands.  Prior to 2011, the State of Oklahoma administered Historic Preservation duties on Tribal land.  The fact that the State of Oklahoma relinquished its jurisdiction on Pawnee land, and that the Pawnee Nation assumed that jurisdiction, firmly established the Pawnee People one step closer to true sovereign autonomy.

Section 106 is proactive legislation. It requires Federal Agency officials to consult with Indian tribes which attach religious or cultural significance to historic properties that will be, or might be, affected by significant ground disturbances before an agency or their designee begins work in order to avoid or mitigate adverse effects.  Historic properties are those which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, or eligible for listing on the Register. This requirement applies regardless of the location of the historic property.  

In a nutshell, because the Pawnee Nation is sovereign, Federal Agencies, or their designees, are required to notify the Pawnee Office of Historic Preservation before they begin a proposed project anywhere, to identify the location of any Pawnee historic properties which may be present within the area their project will affect.  The Office provides locations of any archeological, historic or culturally significant sites, or informs the Agency there are none.  Should there be historic properties present, the federal agency, or their designee, must consult with the Pawnee Nation on a government-to-government basis to avoid or mitigate any adverse effects which may occur.

Keystone XL Pipeline
The Keystone XL Pipeline project between Canada and the Gulf of Mexico provides a great real-life example of the Office’s function.  The original plans for the Keystone XL Pipeline routed it through the heart of the Pawnee historic homeland in Nance County, Neb. Here, the Federal Agency is the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and their designee is Cardeno-Entrix, the Canadian pipeline company.  Cardeno-Entrix contacted the Pawnee Nation, who informed them the route would contact at least two ancient Pawnee cemeteries.  
In 2010, the Nation respectfully asked Cardeno-Entrix to avoid the culturally significant cemeteries and entered into a government-to-government consultation on how to avoid the cemeteries or mitigate adverse effects.  Through consultation, Walter Echohawk, Pawnee Nation tribal attorney, and Charles Lone Chief, Pawnee Nation vice-president, persuaded Entrix to re-route the pipeline around the cemeteries. During the summer of 2011, Office staff, Gordon Adams, Jesse Howell and Archeologist, Nancy Carlson monitored an archeological crew as they shovel-tested a six mile stretch for signs of any historical or culturally significant places or objects along the new route. 

However, despite the cooperation extended by Entrix to the Pawnee People, President Obama refused to allow construction to begin on other grounds in early 2012.

Tribal Historic Preservation Duties
Listed below are five main areas of responsibility administered by the Office of Historic Preservation:

1.    Nominating Historic Places and Things for Listing on the National Register of Historic Places - The main job the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) performs is seeking out and identifying sites, buildings, structures, districts, landscapes and objects significant in our past and nominating them for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (Register).  The Register is the national catalogue of archeological and historic properties, the places and things which influenced us to become who we are today. 

The Register is also the foundation for all Tribal and State Historic Preservation programs.  A THPO, or his counterpart, the State Historic Preservation Officer, or SHPO (rhymes with hippo), are the only ones who can nominate a place or thing to the Register, and then only after conducting a very thorough investigation of the relevant facts.  Two important advantages go along with listing on the Register.  First is the protection a place or thing enjoys against destruction or other adverse effects, and, second is its eligibility for funding to help provide that protection.

2.    Section 106 Review and Compliance - Section 106 Review and Compliance is the largest, most complex job the THPO performs, and the most interesting part of historic preservation work. The 106 Review process is the teeth of Tribal historic preservation.  Federal funding, permits or licenses are issued to agencies only upon completion of the 106 Review process.  Section 106 Review and Compliance flows from the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA).  NHPA provides the legislation that ensures all negotiations regarding mitigation, avoidance or any other kind of adverse effect agreement between Tribes and federal agencies are conducted in a government-to-government manner just as the United States would negotiate with any other sovereign nation. 

Very simply stated, 106 Review requires any agency using federal funds, or requiring federal permits or licensing that proposes a significant ground disturbance in the states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, South Dakota, Colorado, Texas or New Mexico to submit a request for 106 Review to the Pawnee Nation Office of Historic Preservation.  

Although most undertakings submitted for review are quickly cleared, some projects require further investigation by a professional archeologist and historian to make sure that no Pawnee archeological, historical, or sacred sites which are listed in, or eligible for listing in the Register will be adversely affected.  

3.    Survey and Inventory - The survey is the “very thorough investigation of the relevant facts” mentioned above.  As archeological, architectural, historic and sacred resources are identified, recorded and evaluated for Register eligibility, its story unfolds.  The content of the information collected is called the Survey, and determines whether a place or thing qualifies for Register listing.  The survey includes maps, photographs, geology, history, GPS location, information on local flora and fauna and all other information available.  After the survey is complete, the information is placed in our database and constitutes the Inventory.

4.    "Comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan” (the Plan) - The Comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan establishes the goals and objectives for furthering Pawnee historic preservation efforts over the coming years.  The plan covers our reservation, our trust and restricted lands, any archeological, architectural, historic, or sacred sites, as well as historic districts and landscapes anywhere.   The Plan takes its form from the Survey and Inventory information composing our database, input and direction from tribal members, and sets a firm direction for our efforts.  Of course the Plan is a living document and is subject to redirection.

5.    Public Outreach, Education, and Technical Assistance – Public outreach is a powerful tribal historic preservation tool.  Public outreach places the Historic Preservation Officer in personal contact with academic, corporate, civic, governmental and community groups.  Providing lectures, classes, workshops, technical assistance and special presentations on specific preservation topics is the best way to distribute historic preservation information to the public.  Using various media to distribute information about preservation issues is important to reaching larger segments of the public.  Personal contact and media both increase awareness and educate the public about Pawnee heritage and threats to it.

THPOs also advise and assist federal and state agencies and local governments in carrying out their historic preservation responsibilities.  They cooperate with the Secretary of the Interior, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the Department of State, and other federal and state agencies, local governments, organizations, and individuals to ensure that historic properties are taken into consideration at all levels of planning and development.

Anyone who would like further information on public outreach should contact the Office of Historic Preservation at (918) 762-3227.

Herb Adson, Cultural Resources Director

John MIchael Knife Chief, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer

Marti Only A Chief, Administrative Assistant

(918) 762-3227 
Fax - (918) 762-3662

Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma
Pawnee Nation Cultural Center
657 Harrison Street
P.O. Box 470
Pawnee, OK 74058



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