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The Protection of Indian Sacred Sites

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The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) encourages agencies and the general public to fully understand the importance of consulting with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations and respecting sacred sites. In the Section 106 context, the term “sacred sites” is sometimes used as shorthand for historic properties of religious and cultural significance to Indian tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations. As with other kinds of properties, sacred sites must be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in order to be considered in the Section 106 process.

In December 2012, the Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture and Energy and the ACHP (signatories) entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding interagency coordination and collaboration for the protection of Indian sacred sites. In March 2013, the signatories issued an action plan for implementation of the MOU and in March 2014, issued a progress report. Both documents are available at the links below.

On November 6, 2015, after seeking tribal input through teleconferences, emails, and a face-to-face meeting on October 27, 2014, at the National Congress of American Indians meeting in Atlanta, the signatories issued the following documents:

Policy Statement on the Confidentiality of Information about Indian Sacred Sites
Federal agencies have a duty to protect American Indians’ and Alaska Natives’ sacred sites. When consulting with tribes to determine whether culturally sensitive locations may be affected by federal actions, federal agencies should respect tribal desires to keep information about such locations confidential to the extent legally possible.

The Protection of Indian Sacred Sites: General Information
This paper is intended to provide the reader with a very basic understanding about Indian sacred sites. It is offered to help the public, local planners, state officials, developers, and others better understand sacred sites and how they can help protect them.

Policy Review Report
This document is a full and comprehensive review of applicable laws and policies that impact the area of sacred sites. It was created with the assistance of subject matter experts from across the federal government and is a useful resource for federal officials.

Copies of the MOU, Action Plan, Progress Report, and other information may be accessed by clicking the links below:

The Forest Service also maintains a webpage devoted to the Sacred Sites MOU at:

Finally, the ACHP issued a brief explanation of the relationship between Executive Order 13007: Indian Sacred Sites and the Section 106 process:

Coho Rock Art, China Lake

Updated March 8, 2017

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March 8, 2017