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.
The Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Tennessee Valley Authority entered into a new MOU that creates a framework through which the agencies can protect Tribal and Native Hawaiian sacred sites. The MOU identifies opportunities for considering Tribal and Native Hawaiian sacred sites early in federal decision-making processes that may result in regulatory and policy outcomes; adds a commitment to incorporate Indigenous knowledge when assessing the impacts of federal actions on sacred sites; and, provides clear direction on developing best practices for collaborative stewardship and co-management when working with Tribal Nations and the Native Hawaiian Community. The MOU also requires each agency to hold consultations with Tribal Nations and the Native Hawaiian community when a proposed action may affect a sacred site. The MOU requires the signatories to submit an annual report to the White House Council on Native American Affairs.
Under the original MOU signed in 2012, the following were issued:
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.
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.
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.
Tribal leaders have asked federal agencies to help them inform private citizens and state, county, and local governments about the importance of sacred sites to Indian tribes so that they might be better protected and preserved. Native American Sacred Sites and the Federal Government is offered by the Departments of Defense, the Interior, Agriculture, and Energy and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation as one means to help non-tribal people and entities have a better understanding of and appreciation for Indian sacred sites.
Copies of the MOU, Action Plan, Progress Report, and other information may be accessed by these links:
- Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Interagency Coordination and Collaboration for the Protection of Indigenous Sacred Sites November 2021
- Memorandum of Understanding for the Coordination and Collaboration for the Protection of Indian Sacred Sites 2016
- Memorandum of Understanding for the Coordination and Collaboration for the Protection of Indian Sacred Sites 2012
- Policy Statement on the Confidentiality of Information about Indian Sacred Sites
- Native American Sacred Sites and the Federal Government
- The Protection of Indian Sacred Sites: General Information July 2015
- Progress Report on Implementation of the MOU Regarding Interagency Coordination and Collaboration for Protection of Indian Sacred Sites May 2014
The ACHP issued a brief explanation of the relationship between Executive Order 13007: Indian Sacred Sites and the Section 106 process:
The Department of Defense issues guidance memorandum on Confidentiality of Indian Sacred Sites
The Forest Service also maintains a webpage devoted to the Sacred Sites MOU at: