National Guard strives to protect American Indian historical sites
By Eugene Sutherland
Lt Col Michael Tarpley with the Louisiana National Guard and the
Coltural Resources Manager for the Guard.
Lt Col Michael Tarpley, the Louisiana National Guard coltural
resources manager admires the Native American Monumnet which he
helped establish at Camp Beuregard. Tarpley received the prestigious
Secretary of the Army Enviromental Awards for 2004 award or his work
as a coltural resoruces manager. He and his two-men team are
responsible for the protection of Native American sites in five guard
installations and over 80 armories and 29,000 acres of military
When he took over as the Louisiana Army National Guard's cultural
resources manager, Lt. Col. Michael Tarpley didn't know much about
American Indian culture.
Military service was what he did, and he'd done it quite well, for
Then came 2002, when Tarpley began consulting with American Indian
tribal leaders on three of their cultural sites. The announcement
that the Guard would be creating the Mechanized Engineer Training
Area, had led to concerns about possible negative impact upon
American-Indian historic sites on Guard properties.
Elders agreed to mitigation of the sites, and Tarpley adapted the
original plans to protect another cultural site near the original
History was made.
Tarpley was recently awarded the Department of Defense's
Environmental Award for cultural resource management.
"Working with people, you start to learn more about them and what is
important to them," Tarpley said. "This is just part of the job. Our
main focus here is to make training of troops as successful as
possible, while at the same time maintaining the environment. Messing
up (American Indians') sacred sites is like someone coming into your
backyard and doing it to you."
Tarpley established and oversees a team that is the first of its kind
in the country. It includes five Guard installations and 80 armories,
which together are referred to as "Fort Louisiana." The program
involves 1,352 buildings and 29,000 acres of training land.
The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe was, and remains, part of the pact. Earl
Barbry, the tribe's chairman, said he has noticed a greater level of
inclusion of American Indian input on environmental decisions by
municipal and governmental agencies, thanks in part to Tarpley's
"He was real gung-ho about it, and he's always been a good guy to
work with since Day 1," Barbry said. "He's helped. I've noticed that
tribes are now being treated as federally recognized tribes. They're
saying, 'They're their own government. Maybe we should send them a
letter or give them a call letting them know what's going on.'"
Tarpley's office has secured $300,000 in federal grants to do survey
and research work in the past three years. Among other things,
Tarpley has set up satellite-linked, motion-sensing cameras around
the post to ensure no desecrating of Native-American artifacts at
Camp Beauregard. There have been no violations the past three years.
Tarpley and his two-man staff have been responsible for two National
Register historic sites, 43 National Register structures and 511
Native American cultural sites.
Dr. Tom Eubanks, state archaeologist, said Tarpley's greatest
accomplishment might be bringing the state's indigenous American
Indian tribes together for a common purpose. Intertribal
communication had not been a constant, as some tribes have moved to
other Gulf South states.
"Mike recognized the importance of bringing federal tribes to the
table to participate in the Integrated Cultural Resources Management
Plan," Eubanks said. "He built the smoothest consultation process.
His tutelage extends beyond the Army."
The Federal Highway Administration and Louisiana Department of
Transportation have since developed similar plans, Eubanks said.
Last year, Tarpley began the planning phase of the first black
archaeological and military history program on National Guard
This will include archival and excavation studies at 19th-century
black commercial sites at Camp Minden. Tarpley believes this will
lead to better understanding by the public of how the community
developed and impacted the lives of the succeeding generations in the
Eventually, a permanent black military history-themed exhibit will
have a place at Beauregard's Louisiana Maneuvers and Military Museum.