THPO-About Us

In May of 2005, and again in October of 2010, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Wisconsin Division and the 11 Federally recognized Tribes in the state entered into a first-of-its-kind Partnership Agreement which outlined guiding principles supporting government-to-government relationships. The signing was the result of Executive Order 39, which affirms the government-to-government relationship between the Tribes and the state of Wisconsin.

The purpose of the Partnership Agreement is to create and define the processes by which WisDOT and FHWA-WI work in collaboration with Tribes on transportation related issues. The Partnership Agreement suggested utilizing tribal departments or associations to advise WisDOT. In addition, the agreement identified a need to seek guidance from tribes on the care and treatment of historic properties, sacred sites, burials, and traditional cultural properties.

Following the signing of the first Partnership Agreement, the Agency began a dialog with the Wisconsin Inter-Tribal Repatriation Committee (WITRC). WITRC is a subcommittee of the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council (GLITC) and members represent duly appointed Native American Graves Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) representatives consisting of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs), tribal elders, spiritual advisors, and tribal preservation experts. WisDOT began working with the committee to identify areas of concern regarding the care and treatment of historic properties.

In 2006, a pilot project was initiated and facilitated through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between WisDOT and the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (LDF). The LDF Tribal Historic Preservation Office agreed to facilitate monthly meetings which would provide face-to-face opportunities to review existing policy represented within the WisDOT Facilities Development Manual (FDM), and to begin drafting a consultation policy. Participants included WITRC members, Wisconsin THPOs, Tribal preservation professionals, Tribal leaders and WisDOT staff. The pilot project was designed to strengthen tribal participation in WisDOT programming and projects with a focus on historic preservation and environmental issues. This initiative has been titled the WisDOT Tribal Historic Preservation Project.

The Tribal Historic Preservation Project has several goals including:

  • Enhance relationships between WisDOT and WITRC/THPOs;
  • Conduct a comprehensive review and revision of WisDOT archaeological/historical procedures and policies;
  • Develop new WisDOT/Tribal policies, protocols and procedures regarding the treatment of cultural significant resources;
  • Inform others of the pilot projects via a project website;
  • Hold annual Listening Sessions to bring together cultural resources stakeholders; and
  • Provide training and technical assistance.

The LDF Tribal Historic Preservation Office has been responsible for organizing and facilitating meetings in various tribal communities throughout the year since the launch of the project. The meetings included the WisDOT Statewide Tribal Liaison, WisDOT Regional Tribal Liaisons, Wisconsin THPOs and a variety of tribal representatives. On occasion, other stakeholders such as the Wisconsin Historical Society (SHS) and other WisDOT staff attend as well.


A comprehensive review of WisDOT policies and procedures was carried out from 2006-2007 and resulted in an organized effort to revise WisDOT’s Facilities Development Manual (FDM) Chapter 26 on Historic Preservation. This chapter outlines the Section 106 Consultation Process mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act. This is the first time that tribes and a state agency have coordinated state policy revision efforts.

In the fall of 2010, the agency adopted the revisions made to the FDM Chapter 26 and is currently in the process of developing and implementing a statewide training program for WisDOT staff, consultants, and Wisconsin Tribes. The revisions included:

  • Incorporated the NAGPRA Final Rule that provides a repatriation process for culturally unidentified remains and associated funerary objects;
  • Address curation requirements and standards, and require curation agreements before project permits are issued;
  • Implements enhanced consultation procedures required of WisDOT Project Managers;
  • Provides a 9-Step Section 106 process;
  • Defines the use of Tribal experts (selected at the discretion of a Tribe or THPO);
  • Provides protocols for conducting oral history studies; and
  • Provides suggested mitigations for legacy impacts.

Treatment of Human Remains

Following the review of WisDOT procedures, WisDOT and the Wisconsin Tribes acknowledged discrepancies with the adequate care and treatment of human remains discovered in highway projects. Starting in 2009, discussions have been held between the LDF Tribal Historic Preservation Office and the Wisconsin Historical Society (SHS). The goal of the discussions has been to create a mechanism that would enhance the manner in which WisDOT and the SHS consider tribal input while making decisions about the discovery, identification and deposition of Native American human remains discovered on WisDOT projects.

In 2011, the Tribes have met with the SHS in March and again in July. It is anticipated that a draft protocol will be developed that meets the needs of all stakeholders including WisDOT, Wisconsin Tribes and is consistent with state statue by early 2013.


The purpose of the WisDOT Tribal Historic Preservation Project website is to showcase the unique collaborative partnership between WisDOT and Wisconsin Tribes. The website was launched in March 2012.


The Tribal Historic Preservation Project initiated a Listening Session in 2007 with the goal of bringing together cultural resources stakeholders from tribal, state, and federal agencies. The first listening session was held in the community of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and was an expansion of the cultural resources ‘breakout sessions’ at the 2007 WisDOT Tribal Transportation Conference. The initial listening session was designed to facilitate discussion and understanding of tribal cultural perspectives and to build better partnerships in cultural resources preservation.

Please click here for additional information on the Annual Listening Session.


Since the inception of the project, a number of trainings have been held including:

  • Tribal Monitoring Training Forest County Potawatomi (September 2011).
  • Tribal Monitoring Training Red Cliff & Bad River (November 2011)
  • Tribal Monitoring Training Oneida Nations (April 2012)
  • Archaeological PAPAProfessional Training Red Cliff (October 2012)
  • Pilot Training FDM Chapter 26: Cultural Resource Preservation Revisions (January 2013)
  • Introduction to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and Function of a Tribal Historic Preservation Office at the WisDOT Tribal Transportation Conference (September 2011).
  • Understanding Archaeological Reports and Other Forms of Documentation (August 2011).
  • Tribal Enforcement Rights Ordinances (TERO) Workshop: Unique Advances and Approaches in TERO Programming at the WisDOT Tribal Transportation Conference (2010).
  • Workshop in Project and Site Monitoring with an Introduction to Artifact Analysis (October 2010).
  • An Introduction to Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (June 2009).
  • NEPA-NHPA 106 Training (October 2009).
  • An Overview of Historic Preservation, Indian Trails: Past and Present, and Review of the 2007 Listening Session at the WisDOT Tribal Transportation Conference (November 2008).
  • Best Practices in Consultation at the WisDOT Tribal Transportation Conference (April 2007).

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