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Lac du Flambeau Tribal Historic Preservation Officer wins prestigious award

LAC DU FLAMBEAU, Wis. – Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Kelly Jackson was presented with the first Secretary of the Interior Historic Preservation Award.

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne presented the awards to four government and tribal employees at the department’s headquarters in Washington.

The award program was created to recognize outstanding contributions in the area of historic preservation by employees of Federal, State and Tribal Preservation Offices and Certified Local Governments. The Secretary’s award focuses on individual accomplishments instead of programs or projects.

“For me this award is really a reflection of the success and commitment on the part of our community. In 1996 Lac du Flambeau was one of the first 12 tribes to have a tribal historic preservation office,” Jackson said. “Over the years our community has been able to grow and build the program into a resource that has been used not only by our tribe, but by other tribes in our region. I think of this award as a milestone for this community as a whole – and of those community members who make historic preservation an important element of our tribe.”

As a winner of the Secretary’s award, Jackson was recognized for her contributions, creativity and expertise which exemplified the overall goals of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

Assisting in national efforts to enhance the relationship between tribes and the U.S. government, she was an active panelist on the Preserve America Summit held in New Orleans in October 2006 and helped write a position paper on the best practices – or a better approach – to working with tribes and making them a full partner in the National Historic Preservation Program.

Jackson, vice-chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s Native American Advisory Group, was honored in 2007 with the U.S. Forest Service’s “Connecting Citizens to the Land, Indigenous Earth Walker Award.” She received the award in recognition of her assistance to the Forest Service in the acquisition of the 240-acre area known as Indian Farms by the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin.

She also assisted Rebecca Maki, Lac du Flambeau tribal member, in the development of a guide to help Indian country “See the value of building historic preservation programs and assume the functions of the state and the jurisdictional benefits of assuming states functions within the boundaries of reservations,” she said. The guide, published by the Great Lakes Indian Law Center, University of Wisconsin Law School, is called “What is Tribal Historic Preservation, A Guide to Tribal Historic Preservation in Indian Country.”

Jackson also serves as the chief grant administrator for the Native American Graves Repatriation Act and is active nationally in the Native American Tribal Historic Preservation Officers organization as a board member and treasurer.

“Historic preservation seems like a dry word for what I do,” she said. “I don’t think what I do is about preserving something old. This is really about protecting who we are as Native people, continuing a life way and making sure resources are available for anyone interested in learning more about where they come from and passing that knowledge on from one generation to the next. I think what has always motivated me in this work is the fact that in seven generations my children’s children will continue to see the value in our culture and teachings – and will continue to pass them on.

“There are mechanisms within the NHPA to allow tribes to have a direct role in interpreting what is historically significant and important to protect. I think the NHPA encourages agencies to engage with tribes on a government-to-government basis. We have been battling for centuries to protect burial sites and sacred places and I think the NHPA gives us one of many tools to do that,” said Jackson. “Probably the most frustrating part of the process has always been the fact that tribes are constantly fighting agencies to protect places of importance rather than engaging in dialog to be partners in interpreting American history.

“One of the greatest things about preservation is that it is very diverse,” she said. “Locally we are working on a wonderful project called “A Legacy of Survival.” We are restoring one of the government boarding school buildings in Lac du Flambeau. It was a boy’s dormitory and was listed on the national register in 2005 as a nationally significant property.

“It is a challenging project because the boarding school era is an extremely difficult era for many of us and yet we felt it was critical to share the survival of history, tradition and culture – despite the governments attempt to eradicate native people and native connections with cultural identity,” she said.

The restoration project is currently in the final design phase and includes plans for an interpretative center, an archival storage facility for research and records storage with temperature and humidity control, and teaching traditional and cultural skills such as reed mat making, ricing and other gathering activities.

“The first phase of the project is complete – which was taking off the modern influence in the building and bringing the property back to it 1906 footprint. We are hoping to break ground for the restoration project in early spring with a grand opening by summer.

“We continue to do review and compliance, perhaps not as beautiful as a restoration project or an interpretative center, but it is the foundation of these programs. So we continue to work with state, federal and local agencies to ensure that historic places, sacred sites and traditional cultural properties are considered and protected as a matter of policy and procedure within our ceded lands,” she said.

More information about the Secretary of the Interior Historic Preservation Award can be found at www.doi.gov/initiatives/preservation.html.