(CN) – Bambi Krauss considers her job a personal calling. As the president of the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, she helps over 170 tribes preserve their heritage or improve their quality of life with help from $11 million in federal grant money each year.
“These are really important contributions from the federal government to Indian tribes that have taken on the responsibility of preserving their tribal heritage,” she said before talking about some of the projects which aid native communities in keeping their traditions alive.
On Tuesday the Department of Interior and the National Park Service awarded more than $60 million in historic preservation grants to states and tribes. Since 1977, Congress has allocated money raised from oil and natural gas leasing contracts to fund the grant program and preserve cultural heritage that might otherwise be lost.
Krauss, a member of the Tlingit Tribe out of the Pacific Northwest, said the funded projects that stand out the most for her are those involved preserving native languages.
“They can get correct pronunciation of words where, once it’s gone, and it’s a written language, you really need the context,” she said. “Especially with languages were its all about the emphasis and pronunciation makes all the difference.”
The funds are also used for some of the more somber sides of historic preservation. Krause said many of the tribes, since pushed off their land, use the money to collect items from burial grounds outside of their reservations.
“[Tribes] have roots that are thousands of years old,” she said. “It could be human remains or sacred objects. It’s a very solemn job.”
This year’s total funds for tribes, about $11 million, is a slight increase over last year, but it is dwarfed by the $48.9 million allocated to states that use the money for similar historic, albeit less ancient, projects.
Randall Jones, spokesman for Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources, said his state gets just under $1 million a year, about 12 percent of their total budget, and the funds are used to support administrative needs as well as generating competitive grant opportunities for localities.
“The Historic Preservation Fund is fundamental to DHR’s core and interconnected programs,” Jones said in an email.
Jones explained it allows for surveys and planning, historic registers, rehabilitation tax credits, federally-mandated project review, and providing fundamental data on historic resources through the agency’s archives and digital historic resources database.
One of the notable projects out of Virginia includes efforts to restore and remember freed-slave communities in Arlington, Virginia, including A.M.E. Zion Church and Cemetery.
“In short, [these grants are] the “seed corn” that allows these programs to flourish,” he said.