Tribal historic preservation plans have emphasized the importance of the oral tradition, as well as consulting Tribal elders and spiritual leaders with special knowledge of the Tribe's traditions. They also have given emphasis to the importance of protecting "traditional cultural properties," places that are eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places because of their association with cultural practices and beliefs that are: (1) rooted in the history of the community; and, (2) are important to maintaining the continuity of that community's traditional beliefs and practices. Incorporating Tribal cultural values into the historic preservation program has been consistently cited as a priority. Finally, the need for assuming the responsibility for reviewing Federal undertakings that may affect historical properties and the importance of archaeological survey work was consistently mentioned as essential. Tribal Historic Preservation Officers advise Federal agencies on the management of Tribal historic properties and strive to preserve their Tribes' cultural heritage and preservation programs.

Each THPO prepares a Tribal Historic Preservation Plan that describes how the tribe will carry out certain responsibilities it has identified in its agreement with the National Park Service. These responsibilities can include:

  • Directing and conducting a comprehensive reservation-wide survey of historic properties and maintaining inventories of those properties;
  • Identifying and nominating eligible properties to the National Register and administering applications for listing historic properties on the National Register;
  • Preparing and implementing a comprehensive Tribal historic preservation plan;
  • Administering the Tribal program of Federal assistance for historic preservation at the reservation (when funds are appropriated by the U S Congress);
  • Advising and assisting, when appropriate, Federal and State agencies and local governments in carrying out their historic preservation responsibilities;
  • Cooperating with the Secretary of Interior, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and other Federal and State agencies, local governments, and organizations and individuals to ensure that historic properties are taken into consideration at all levels of planning and development;
  • Providing public information, education and training, and technical assistance in historic preservation;
  • Cooperating with local governments in developing local historic preservation programs and assisting local governments in certification (when feasible);
  • Consulting with the appropriate Federal agencies in accordance with the Act on Federal undertakings that may affect historic properties and the content and sufficiency of any plans developed to protect, manage, or to reduce or mitigate harm to such properties; and,
  • Advising and assisting in evaluating proposals for rehabilitation projects that may qualify for Federal assistance.