Policy Statement on the Confidentiality of Information about Indian Sacred Sites

November 06, 2015


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.

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 shall respect tribal desires to keep information about such locations confidential to the extent legally possible. Many tribes cannot disclose, for cultural reasons, information about the location, the significance, and even the existence of traditional religious and cultural properties and places. Federal agencies must respect and recognize tribal ownership of information.

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.



Download the policy statement here.