By Domonique deBeaubien, THPO Collections Manager
It’s a long standing joke within our department that we operate out of a tin can. Our tiny modular building, built as a five year temporary home, still stands nestled between the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and a pristine cypress dome. This little shabby structure looks a bit out of place in such a serene setting, but our office stands as a (not-so) subtle reminder that our Tribal Historic Preservation program can handle just about anything.
It’s been a long journey getting to this point; the establishment of a Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) doesn’t come with a guide book. In fact, it doesn’t come with any instructions at all, so each THPO must carve their own path through this tangled wood of historic preservation. Working within the field of tribal historic preservation is notoriously complex and demanding. THPOs across the United States are charged with the preservation and management of a tribe’s invaluable cultural resources, and must operate within a complex dynamic of state, federal, and reservation law. At the same time, a THPO must also uphold the values and beliefs of the tribe that they serve. As you can imagine, this isn’t often an easy task.
The STOF-THPO is made up of four different sections (Tribal Archaeology, Compliance, Collections and Archaeometry) who all work together to protect the Seminole Tribe’s cultural resources. On a daily basis we conduct archaeological field work, review lengthy field reports, investigate archaeological objects, drink coffee, lead tours, make new and exciting maps, participate in community events, and much more! Every day brings a new challenge that supports the preservation of Seminole cultural heritage.
So how is it done, you might be wondering? The STOF-THPO was officially founded in 2002 by order of Tribal Council. On the eve of the THPO’s 15 year anniversary, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has partnered with University of Florida Press to publish “We Come for Good: Archaeology and Tribal Historic Preservation at the Seminole Tribe of Florida.”
This volume serves as a guide to share the challenges, battles, and victories of the Seminole Tribe’s THPO program. We Come for Good offers a unique tribal based perspective on how a THPO operates, builds internal capacity, and strives every day to become a leader in historic preservation. So if you really want to know how it’s done, then all you have to do is read the book! So please join us in celebrating this monumental achievement. Grab your own copy online, and sit back and enjoy the journey.