The National Register of Historic Places (NR) documents the appearance and importance of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in our Nation’s prehistory and history. To guide the selection of properties included in the NR, the National Park Service (NPS) has developed NR Criteria for Evaluation. These criteria are standards by which every property that is nominated to the NR is judged. The criteria were developed to be consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Archeology and Historic Preservation, which are uniform, national standards for preservation activities. As the Agency charged with overseeing and maintaining the NR, the NPS, through the National Register/National Historic Landmark Program, periodically develops and updates guidance related to identifying, evaluating, and documenting historic properties eligible for nomination to the NR.

Project Overview

As part of the Director’s Call to Action, the NPS is conducting a comprehensive effort to review and update the guidance currently provided in National Register Bulletin 38, Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Traditional Cultural Properties (PDF, 27MB), for identifying, evaluating, and documenting National Register-eligible properties that are significant as Traditional Cultural Properties and Native American landscapes. As part of this process, in April 2012, NPS began seeking nationwide input through a two-track information-gathering process consisting of: 1) conducting formal Government-to-Government Consultations with Federally recognized Indian Tribes; and 2) requesting comments and recommendations from State Historic Preservation Officers, NPS regional offices and parks, and Federal land management and permitting agencies, as well as national, state, and local preservation organizations, independent professional preservation practitioners, and the public at large. With respect to both of these tracks, NPS is committed not only to seeking initial comments and recommendations from its national, state, and local partners, but also to providing meaningful opportunities for ongoing substantive dialogue with its partners throughout the duration of the project via multiple regional meetings, webinars, and teleconferences, as well as reviews of drafts of updated guidelines as they become available.


With the release of National Register Bulletin 38 in 1990, NPS provided basic written guidance on identifying, evaluating, and documenting regarding NR-eligible properties that could be considered significant as Traditional Cultural Properties. While Bulletin 38 remains an essential resource for identifying, evaluating, and documenting TCPs, in recent years the number of requests received by the NPS for additional clarification in this regard has increased significantly. NPS believes the best way to address these requests is through the provision of updated, published guidance on how to better identify, evaluate, and document:

  • What constitutes a “traditional” community;
  • “Continuity of use” by a traditional community;
  • Evolving uses of resources by a traditional community;
  • Evolving uses of resources by a traditional community;
  • Broad ethnographic landscapes;
  • Property boundaries;
  • Resource integrity.

In addition to the issues noted above, NPS is also seeking to capture any other “user-identified” TCP-related issues, as well as requesting comments and recommendations that specifically address the development of published guidance related to identifying, evaluating, and documenting NR-eligible Native American landscapes.


NPS currently estimates that for both of the tracks referred to above, the information-gathering phases will be completed by late January 2013. Development of and public review and public comment by on an initial draft of updated guidelines is projected for completion by June 2013. A second draft of the updated guidelines is expected to be available for additional public review and comment by August 2013. The project is expected to be completed with the publication of final updated guidelines in December 2013.

Throughout this process there will be extensive consultation with tribes and partner organizations.


Medicine Wheel/Medecine Mountain National Historic Landmark (Traditional Cultural Property) Bighorn National Forest, Lovell, Wyoming

Medicine Wheel/Medecine Mountain National Historic Landmark (Traditional Cultural Property) Bighorn National Forest, Lovell, Wyoming

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119