CHRIS Tribal Access Policy


The CHRIS consists of the California Office of Historic Preservation (OHP), led by the SHPO, the State Historical Resources Commission (SHRC), and nine regional Information Centers (ICs). The CHRIS Inventory includes the State Historic Resources Inventory maintained by the OHP as specified in California Public Resources Code § 5024.6(n), and the larger number of resource records and research reports managed under contract by the ICs. Paralleling state-defined responsibilities, under the terms of annual grants from the National Park Service (NPS), the OHP has various statewide federally-mandated historic preservation responsibilities, including management of a statewide historic resources inventory.

At present each of the ICs may, and do, enter into agreements with tribes to establish the terms of access in each IC’s region. For federally recognized tribes that have a Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) certified by the National Park Service (NPS), access to data for their tribal lands is available at all the centers upon request. However, there is no statewide comprehensive policy regarding tribal access to data in relation to non-THPO tribes, traditional use areas, or other lands of tribal interest, nor is there a written policy related to THPO access to the CHRIS.

The SHPO, along with the State Historical Resources Commission (SHRC), sets policy affecting the ICs’ operations and interaction with tribes, cultural resource professionals, state, federal, and local government agencies, and the public. Archaeological information in the CHRIS Inventory is considered confidential, and access to this information is restricted by state and federal laws. Issues and conflicts have arisen over the lack of a uniform CHRIS policy for tribal access to inventory information off of tribal lands, and we see this process of consultation with the tribes as one of several steps we can take to ensure that a final CHRIS tribal access policy represents input from all of the stakeholders and operates uniformly and fairly.

Current Status

The California Office of Historic Preservation is currently working with a group of representatives from tribal organizations that have been designated as Tribal Historic Preservation Offices by the National Park Service on a set of policies that will apply to THPO-designated tribes, which may be different from the policies established for other tribes based on the formal authority granted to THPO-designated tribes.

This working group is developing a set of policies that will be submitted to the State Historic Preservation Officer as recommendations. The SHPO will then prepare a set of policy recommendations for consideration and approval by the State Historical Resources Commission, who will consider them at a regularly scheduled, publically-noticed meeting.

The Office of Historic Preservation is looking for five to six representatives of Federally-recognized and non-recognized tribal organizations to serve on a similar working group to develop policy recommendations for non-THPO-designated tribes. If you are interested in serving on this working group, contact Anmarie Medin, Supervisor, Cultural Resources Management, at, or 916 445-7023.

History of This Effort

In November and December 2014, the California Office of Historic Preservation hosted a series of regional public meetings to provide input regarding Native American Tribal access to the cultural resource information maintained by California Historical Resources Information System (CHRIS). The objective of the meetings was to involve as many tribes in California as possible in the process of formulating a comprehensive, consistent, and coordinated policy for Tribal access to the CHRIS inventory.

We compiled the comments we received during the meetings, as well as comments received in writing, into a comments document. We chose to organize the comments based on the issues we identified as possibly needing to be addressed in the policy, and you will see that comments which didn’t fit under one of those issues are included in three sets of more general comments at the end of the document. Our thanks go out to those groups and individuals who were able to attend the meetings and/or provide us with written comments.

Some groups, as part of their comments, asked about the authority of the State Historic Preservation Officer to restrict or otherwise put parameters on Native American access to the CHRIS Inventory data. We have included those comments in the attached document, and we are pulling together all the statutes and regulations related to this issue. Our thinking is that the working group members will have this legal information to consider as we begin the process of developing the policy—and we will of course share it with all interested individuals and tribes beyond those who are serving on the working group.

Look to this webpage, and our monthly Preservation ePosts, for updates. We will also be maintaining a notification email list for this effort and  using it to disseminate information. If you have any questions or would like to be added to the email list, contact Anmarie Medin, Supervisor, Cultural Resources Management, at