The American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 (AIRFA) (42 U.S.C. § 1996.) protects the
rights of Native Americans to exercise their traditional religions by ensuring access to sites, use
and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional
rites. AIRFA is primarily a policy statement. Approximately half of the brief statute is devoted
to Congressional findings. Following the Congressional findings, the Act makes a general policy
statement regarding American Indian religious freedom: “On and after August 11, 1978, it shall
be the policy of the United States 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.” 42 U.S.C. § 1996 (2011).
The American Indian Religious Freedom Act was signed into law on August 11, 1978 by President Jimmy Carter.