In November 2021, the secretaries of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (the participating agencies) entered into a voluntary Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to “improve the protection of, and access to, Indigenous sacred sites through enhanced and improved interdepartmental coordination, collaboration, and action.”
The MOU provides by way of background, that Indian Tribes, the Native Hawaiian Community, and Indigenous peoples have creation narratives that emphasize the connection to a place as part of a spiritual practice and existence. Desecration of these sacred places and the relocation of many of these community members from their ancestral homelands has had enduring negative impacts on their social, cultural, spiritual, and physical wellbeing. The MOU defines a “sacred site” as:
Any specific, discrete, narrowly delineated location on Federal land that is identified by an Indian Tribe or Native Hawaiian organization, or Indian or Native Hawaiian individual determined to be an appropriately authoritative representative of an Indian or Native Hawaiian religion, as sacred by virtue of its established religious significance to, or ceremonial use by, an Indian or Native Hawaiian religion; provided that the Tribe or Native Hawaiian religion has informed the agency of the existence of such a site.