BOEM Guides Search for West Coast Tribal Cultural Landscapes

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has issued a new guide to help government agencies and Native American communities work together to identify areas along the country’s west coast that could be affected by future offshore renewable energy development.

The potential for impacts to important coastal and marine Native American sites will increase as interest in offshore renewable energy development increases, BOEM says. These potential impacts may include physical disturbances to archaeological sites and traditional use areas, as well as visual impacts.

Utilizing a cultural landscape approach that integrates traditional knowledge with environmental science, historical information, and archaeological knowledge, the guide outlines a method for tribes with a connection to the coast to document places and resources significant to their communities. This approach and the data it yields are intended to reduce potential conflicts while filling critical data gaps in ocean planning and resource management.

“Understanding the types of important archaeological and cultural resources that could be affected is essential to their preservation,” said Joan Barminski, Pacific Regional Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

“The approach outlined in this guide recognizes that places and cultural heritage resources can have different or multiple meanings and levels of significance based on how people from different cultures, times, or backgrounds have interacted and continue to engage with the respective landscape.”

A tribal cultural landscape approach is grounded in tribal sovereignty and identifies best practices for tribes on how to represent their interests to government agencies in reviewing potential development projects. It also outlines best practices for agencies on how to consult with tribes more effectively and appropriately in advance of proposed projects.

“The places we live are as much part of us as our songs, stories, foods and oral traditions. They remind us of our place in the world and our obligations. Finding ways for land managing agencies to see this importance – to help us protect them and preserve our cultures, is vital,” said Eirik Thorsgard, one of the project’s core members and tribal member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon and former Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Tribe.

“This set of methods and acceptance of understanding assists in training people from other cultures about our perspectives and ensures for generations to come, we will still have the world our elders gave us.”

The guide, Characterizing Tribal Cultural Landscapes, is available here.

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