Governor submits bill to establish Historic Preservation Office by law
Gov. Togiola Tulafono has submitted for Fono review and approval a proposal that would establish by law the American Samoa Historic Preservation Office (ASHPO), which is currently among the offices overseen by the Governor’s Office.
The proposed legislation, would also set a “permitting system to ensure that American Samoan artifacts are returned to American Samoa” and contains general provisions related to funding and the programs for which ASHPO is responsible, said Togiola in his Sept. 10 cover letter to the Fono leaders that includes a copy of the proposed bill.
The governor says he and his staff have worked closely with the Historic Preservation Office and he is confident that the proposed bill will provide necessary protection to ancient and historic artifacts found in the territory.
He explained that the permitting system proposed in the bill will allow ASHPO to “review proposed archaeological research and excavations and to grant permission for such projects ...”
Those individuals or organizations who attempt to perform archeological research or excavation or who remove artifacts from the territory without permission, subject themselves to criminal and civil sanctions, he said.
According to the governor, ASHPO has operated under the Office of the Governor for some time and “now is the time to strengthen their role in protecting our artifacts and guarding against those who would attempt to take a piece of our people’s history home with them without just cause or permission.”
“As we seek to bring visitors and industry to our shores we must also provide safeguards to historic and ancient artifacts that are a part of our culture and heritage. I believe that this bill will accomplish that,” the governor concluded.
It’s not immediately clear as to when the actual bill will be introduced in both the Senate and House as the Fono has only 13-session days left in the current legislative session. And even if the bill is introduced, there is not enough time for the Fono to fully conduct a review of the new proposal.
Under the proposed FY 2013 budget, the Historical Preservation Office - funded by federal grants - is seeking a $384,500 budget. Some major expenditures cited in the budget for the new fiscal year, include $40,000 for Tutuila island architectural survey; $30,000 for digitizing of KVZK TV and educational television tapes; $6,500 for Blunts Point National Register nominations; $5,000 for Swains Island archaeological survey; and $3,000 for Rose Atoll archaeological survey.
The budget book states that ASPHO conducts ongoing comprehensive surveys of historic properties and maintains an inventory, identifies and nominates eligible properties to the National Register of Historic Places. It also advises and assists federal and territorial agencies in carrying historic preservation responsibilities to ensure historic properties are taken into consideration at all levels of planning and developing.
More information on ASHPO is at: www.ashpo.org