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Consultation with local communities, federally recognized tribes, and other interested parties is an important part of the Section 106 compliance process of the National Historic Preservation Act. In 2008 and 2009, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Illinois Division sponsored two tribal consultation workshops to enhance relationships and consultation protocol with tribes that have an interest in Illinois lands.
One result of the workshops is that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was developed by the agencies and tribes to guide future Section 106 tribal consultation. That way, they would be able to consult with tribe representatives from all regions who might be impacted by a transportation project. IDOT and FHWA invited more than two dozen tribes to contribute feedback and information about project notification and communication. The Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS), which conducts cultural resource investigations for IDOT, provided organizational support at the workshops. Workshop participants included staff from ISAS, IDOT, FHWA Illinois Division, the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office, and the Illinois State Museum. There were representatives from nine tribes, including: the Absentee Shawnee, Ho-Chunk, Iowa (of Kansas and Nebraska), Kaw, Kickapoo (of Kansas), Osage, Ponca, Pokagon Band-Potawatomi, and Sac-Fox (of Oklahoma).
Another product of the workshops was the creation of a computerized notification system. The Project Notification System (PNS) is a necessary project tool for the Section 106 consultation process in Illinois. Feedback from workshop participants indicated that the PNS is an acceptable method of project notification. The password-protected online system provides information to tribes at the same time that it is available to ISAS archaeologists and IDOT engineers. In 2009, IDOT posted more than 250 projects on its website, providing tribes with the opportunity to learn about projects and to convey project concerns back to IDOT through the PNS.
Prior to the establishment of the PNS, tribes were concerned with new transportation projects because of a project's potential to damage historic burial grounds and cemeteries. In the 1930s and 1940s, most burial sites in Illinois were located and mapped. However, some of the sites were not recorded or their location was incorrect. As part of the new tribal consultation process, when feasible, ISAS archaeologists will revisit sites within two miles of IDOT projects and they will ensure that transportation projects will not impact burial sites. Archaeologists will also ensure that the sites are accurately documented and include appropriate site documentation.
In April 2010, IDOT, FHWA, and ISAS staff presented their tribal consultation process at the Association of Transportation Archaeologists in St. Louis, Missouri. This meeting included archaeologists from FHWA, the National Park Service, and Departments of Transportation who saw the benefits of the PNS and the MOU structure.