U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack directed the Forest Service to work with the USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations (OTR) to review existing laws, regulations, and policies and examine their effectiveness in ensuring a consistent level of protection for American Indian and Alaska Native sacred sites located on National Forest System lands. Secretary Vilsack asked the Forest Service to consult with Tribal leaders to determine how the Agency can do a better job addressing sacred site issues while simultaneously balancing pursuit of the Agency’s mission to deliver forest goods and services for current and future generations.
Sacred Sites Training Video
Beginning in 2013, a comprehensive online training module for federal employees and contractors has been under development in coordination with subject matter experts from across the Federal Government, Indian Country, Academia and Tribal Advocacy Groups. This training was finalized in Fall 2016 with assistance from the Department of Justice’s National Indian Country Training Initiative, and today was made available on line.
The video is just one of the products from an effort than began in December 2012 by the Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Energy, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) when they entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to improve the protection of and Indian access to sacred sites through interagency coordination and collaboration. Through collaboration and consultation, the signatory agencies have worked to raise awareness about Indian sacred sites and the importance of maintaining their integrity. Under this MOU, the signatories were charged with developing tools to assist the federal government in meeting their legal responsibilities to federally recognized tribes. The video is intended for use by federal, state, and tribal governments, and for all those who are interested in educating themselves about the significance of these sites.
Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and Interior Sign Memorandum to Collaborate to Protect Indian Sacred Sites
Four cabinet-level departments joined the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation December 6, 2012, in signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to improve the protection of Indian sacred sites. The MOU also calls for improving tribal access to the sites. It was signed by cabinet secretaries from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy and Interior. It was also signed by the chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. USDA News Release…
The Sacred Sites MOU has been extended through December 31, 2024.
- Memorandum of Understanding Among the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Energy, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation on Interagency Coordination and Collaboration for the Protection of Indian Sacred Sites (PDF, 374 KB)
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Releases Final Sacred Sites Report
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released a report on December 6, 2012, calling for USDA and the U.S. Forest Service to work more closely with tribal governments in the protection, respectful interpretation and appropriate access to Indian sacred sites. USDA News Release…
The FINAL Report is available for review or collaborative discussion.
- REPORT TO THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, USDA Policy and Procedures Review and Recommendations: Indian Sacred Sites (December 2012) (PDF, 1.3 MB)
- Questions and Answers: Policy and Procedures Review: Sacred Sites (PDF, 81 KB)
For more information, to request a hard copy or CD of the report, or to arrange a meeting, please email TribalSacredSites@fs.fed.us, or use any of the contacts listed on our Tribal Relations contact list (PDF, 96 KB).
Previous Sacred Sites Listening Sessions
Transcript of the November 29, 2010, and February 14, 2011, calls are available by request. Please send transcript requests to TribalSacredSites@fs.fed.us.
- February 14, 2011 Review of USDA & Forest Service Policies and Procedures for the Protection of Indian Sacred Sites National Listening Session FINAL THEMES SUMMARY (PDF, 156 KB)
- November 29, 2010 Review of USDA & Forest Service Policies and Procedures for the Protection of Indian Sacred Sites National Listening Session FINAL THEMES SUMMARY (PDF, 128 KB)
- Sacred Sites – Questions & Answers for the Review of USDA & Forest Service Policies and Procedures for the Accommodation of Indian Sacred Sites (PDF, 166 KB, 7-12-2011).
- Review of USDA & Forest Service Policies and Procedures for the Protection of Indian Sacred Sites: Summary of Summary of 2003-2007 Forest Service Sacred Sites Policy Review (PDF, 125 KB)
- Letter to Tribal leaders from the USDA Under Secretary and the Forest Service Chief (PDF, 0.7 MB) - On July 15, 2011, USDA Under Secretary and Forest Service Chief jointly signed a letter transmitting the report on CD to Tribes and offering them the opportunity to consult on the Draft Report to the Secretary.
Tribal Participants Letter from the USDA Under Secretary and the Forest Service Chief (PDF, 1.1 MB) - On November 3, 2010, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, Harris Sherman, and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell jointly signed a letter asking Tribes for their assistance. The letter also invited Tribes to participate in the first national telephonic listening session that occurred on November 29, 2010.