Taking Care of Native American Cultural Landscapes

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  • Dean B. Suagee

In the expanses of undeveloped public lands in the American Southwest, it may be tempting to perceive them as empty and unoccupied landscapes.

Such a perception may be particularly common with respect to many of the national parks, national forests, and holdings under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which are often prized for their natural, undeveloped, and even wilderness characteristics. From the perspective of Indian tribes with ancestral ties to federally managed lands, these lands are not empty. Rather, they are filled with places that are memorialized in tribal oral traditions, stories, and songs and that are often still visited for various purposes. For the most part, tribes have
never really relinquished or disregarded their connections to these places. As tribes increasingly establish their own cultural resources departments, including assuming the responsibilities of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs), they have
become more knowledgeable about federal and state cultural resource laws and regulations and more engaged in the decision-making processes of federal and state agencies.