Historic Preservation

Choctaw identity is founded upon a unique and special heritage, which itself is embodied in our language, our historic sites, and our traditional knowledge.  With 20 staff members, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Historic Preservation Department fulfills a sacred duty to the Choctaw people by working to preserve this heritage for future generations. 

For the Historic Preservation Department, preservation is a multiple-level effort that involves physically protecting Choctaw historic sites, repatriating and reburying Choctaw ancestors and sacred objects that have been removed from the ground, conducting research on Choctaw history and traditional life, and providing a variety of classes and presentations on Choctaw history and culture to Tribal members and the general public.

Consultation/Section 106 Program

In our homeland of Mississippi/Alabama, along the Choctaw Trail of Tears corridors, and in Oklahoma Choctaw country, the landscape is dotted with reminders of our ancestors’ presence.  These reminders include archaeological sites, burials, sacred places, and artifacts.  Unique and irreplaceable, these entities are threatened on a daily basis through looting, development, and the progression of time. 

In 2004, the Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department became the second Tribe in Oklahoma to take over the responsibilities of the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Officer under Section 101(d)2 of the National Historic Preservation Act on Tribal lands. Today, CNHPD annually consults on 1,800 to 2,000 federally funded projects within a 9 state region, to insure that these projects to not disturb Choctaw ancestral sites.  The Department also regularly consults with state agencies, Tribal members, and the general public to protect Choctaw sites on non-federal land. 

The CNHPD often works collaboratively with other Tribes and agencies to strengthen preservation efforts.  The Department was instrumental in founding the "To Bridge a Gap Conference", an annual meeting between Tribes and federal agencies on preservation issues.

For more information, please contact Dr. Ian Thompson at 1-800-522-6170, [email protected]

Consultation Contact Information:

For Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas please contact Lindsey Bilyeu at 1-800-522-6170, [email protected]

For Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi please contact Dr. Ian Thompson at 1-800-522-6170, [email protected]

Tribal Archaeology Program

As a part of the Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department, the Tribal Archaeology Program proactively conducts archaeological survey to locate, document, and physically protect sites within the 10 ½ counties of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Sites ranging from 1950s homesteads to Native American camp sites dating back 10,000 years, have been surveyed and recorded by Program staff.  The Program also responds to reports of archaeological site-vandalism and grave desecration.

To report an archaeological site, site vandalism or looting, or for more information about Choctaw history and traditional lifeways, please contact Dr. Ian Thompson at 1-800-522-6170, [email protected]

Cemetery Restoration Program

The Choctaw Nation Cemetery Restoration Crew provides the services of locating, preserving and protecting abandoned and historic Choctaw Cemeteries within the 10 ½ counties of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.  With its own ground-penetrating radar (GPR), and a trained technician on board, the Cemetery Restoration Crew is able to remotely sense underground features, and locate unmarked graves, without causing any disturbance to the burials. 

The crew has 7 members, a coordinator/GPR technician who coordinates the projects with Choctaw families and runs the ground penetrating radar, three Cemetery Restoration Technicians based in the Durant office, and three technicians based on the Tuskahoma Council House Grounds.

The Cemetery Restoration Crew works closely with Choctaw families to provide the best service possible.  To request a cemetery restoration:

The cemetery must be a Choctaw cemetery, with Tribal members buried in it

Family members must fill out a Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma NAGPRA Form and submit it to the Cemetery Restoration Crew.

If the cemetery or burial site is located on the property of a private landowner, it is important that a name and phone number of the landowner is provided.

Once contact is made with the landowner, two agreements must be signed prior to any work: (1) Assessment and Inspection Agreement, (2) Cemetery and Clean-Up Agreement

If the ground penetrating radar is needed to locate an unmarked burial(s), an additional form must be signed by the family or landowner.

If all parties are in agreement, work will begin with an initial assessment report and photo documentation of the site’s original condition.

Restoration work will then proceed, following the terms of the Clean-Up Agreement.

Once the work is completed at the cemetery or burial site, then pictures will be taken again to document the results of the restoration.

It is our hope that family members and friends will partner with us in preserving these sacred sites by continuing to preserve and protect them after restoration is complete.  At this time, due to a high level of demand, burial sites are eligible for the services provided through the Historic Preservation Department, Cemetery Restoration Program only once.

For more information, please contact Skyler Robinson at 1-800-522-6170, Fax 580-920-3181, [email protected]

NAGPRA/Repatriation Program

Perhaps the most sacred duty performed by the Department is the repatriation and reburial of ancestors whose remains have been taken from the earth, over the last 150 years, and placed in collections and museums. The Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department, under the leadership of a ten-member NAGPRA Advisory Board, regularly repatriates our ancestors, burial objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony from federal collections and respectfully reburies them as our ancestors originally intended. 

For more information please contact Dr. Ian Thompson at 1-800-522-6170, [email protected]

Cultural GIS Program

The Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department relies on current and developing technologies as tools to learn more about Choctaw history and to better protect important historic and cultural places.

A GPS (Global Positioning System) utilizes satellite triangulation to accurately record the locations of sites and places on the landscape. Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Department staff use GPS units in the field to directly record the locations of Choctaw historic and cultural sites.

A GIS (Geographic Information System) is a tool for integrating hardware, software, and data that facilitates the capture, management, analysis, and display of geographic information. The Department’s GIS/GPS Specialist uses data obtained through GPS and other sources to create detailed, multi-layer digital maps to show certain aspects of Choctaw history on the landscape.  This includes village locations, trails, treaty boundaries, Choctaw place names, cemeteries and much more.  Some of the GIS maps produced by the Department are directly available to the public.  Others are restricted because of the sensitive information they contain.

The Historic Preservation Department also maintains the Register of Choctaw Historic Places.  This is a secure database that records site locations and links them with site reports, images, and all other pertinent information.  While not directly available to the public, the Register of Choctaw Historic Places helps the Historic Preservation Department to protect these sites, and to educate Tribal members and the public about Choctaw history on the landscape.

Cultural Outreach & Presentations

The Choctaw Nation Historic Preservation Departments offer customized presentations on a wide variety of topics within Choctaw history and traditional lifeways.

We cater to groups such as professional conferences, schools, and Daughters of the American Revolution.

For more information or to request a presentation, please use the link below.

To request a presentation, contact [email protected].

Presentations (Power Point files)

Dr. Ian Thompson

Ryan L. Spring