Relevant Federal Laws, Regulations, Executive Orders

Several Federal laws and Executive Orders exist that relate to the Federal government’s relationship with Indian tribes with regard to cultural resource consultation:

  • The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The primary law over Federal government historic preservation activities requires consultation with Indian tribes under Section 106 and created the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) program. (1966, as amended 2004)
  • The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Requires Federal agencies and museums to return certain Native American cultural items, human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony to lineal descendants, culturally-affiliated Native American tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations. Repatriation is mandated for Native American cultural items excavated or discovered on Federal land after November 16, 1990. (1990)
  • The Archeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA). Requires Federal agencies to review and issue permits for all proposed archaeological excavations on Federal lands. Applications for permits on Indian Lands[1] require the Federal land manager obtain consent from the appropriate Indian tribal authority. ARPA also mandates the confidentially of information concerning the nature and location of archeological resources, including tribal archeological resources. (1979)
  • The American Indian Religious Freedom Act [PDF] (AIRFA). Establishes the policy of the Federal government "to protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions of the American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut, and Native Hawaiians, including, but not limited to, access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites". (1978)
  • The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Requires the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) for any proposed major Federal action that may significantly affect the quality of the human environment. While the statutory language of NEPA does not mention Indian tribes, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations and guidance do require agencies to contact Indian tribes and provide them with opportunities to participate at various stages in the preparation of an environmental assessment or EIS. (1969)
  • Executive Order 13175 Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments. Recognizes tribal rights of self-government and tribal sovereignty, and affirmed and committed the Federal government to a work with Native American tribal governments on a government-to-government basis. (2000)
  • Executive Order 13007 Indian Sacred Sites. Directs Federal agencies to accommodate access to and ceremonial use of Native American sacred sites by Native American religious practitioners and avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of such sacred sites. (1996)
  • Executive Order 13647 Establishing the White House Council on Native American Affairs [PDF]. Establishes a national policy to ensure that the Federal Government engages in a true and lasting government-to-government relationship with Federally recognized tribes in a more coordinated and effective manner, including by better carrying out its trust responsibilities. (2013)

  1. Indian Lands per 43 CFR 7 means lands of Indian tribes, or Indian individuals, which are either held in trust by the United States or subject to a restriction against alienation imposed by the United States except for subsurface interests not owned or controlled by an Indian tribe or Indian individual.
Last Reviewed: 2021-09-29