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Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous People (SPI)

Our mission: Building the capacity of Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples to protect sacred lands, waters, and cultures Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples (SPI) is an Indigenous-led, community-based organization and fiscally sponsored by the Sierra Health Foundation Center.  

SPI advocates for environmental, social and cultural justice and works locally, regionally, and globally to build the capacity of Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples to protect sacred lands, waters, and cultures. We work with Native Nations, Elders, traditional cultural practitioners, Indigenous organizations, environmental justice groups, universities, artists, youth, and others to protect environmentally and culturally significant places, practices, and ideologies and create paradigm shifts that support environmentally and socially just systems that assure the continuation of Indigenous cultures for all time.  

We collaborate with Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples working at the front lines of environmental, cultural, and social justice in California, around the country and throughout the world.  


Developing the Next Generation of Leaders

Indigenous Youth Fellowship: Through this program we provide young Indigenous leaders from Native Nations and Indigenous communities throughout California and around the country with an opportunity to learn about community organizing and environmental and cultural policy issues via involvement with ongoing SPI initiatives and participation in international forums such as the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus.

Sacred Ecologies Program

SPI is responsive to requests from Native Nations and Indigenous-led organizations to work on specific environmental and cultural protection campaigns as threats to sacred places and environmentally sensitive habitats continue to multiply. In 2013, we produced a short film Saving Payahuupu: The Owens Valley Solar Story in order to support a grassroots coalition of Tribes, local community groups, historic preservation committees and environmental conservation organizations working to protect cultural places and environmentally sensitive habitats in Owens Valley. Today we are working with a coalition of Acjachemen and Tongva Native Nations and organizations to protect the traditional cultural property Genga, located within the proposed development footprint of the Newport Banning Ranch project.

Tribal Civic Engagement & Community Organizing Project

Our tribal engagement program builds the capacity of Native American youth, Elders and tribal community and government leaders to advocate effectively on behalf of their communities via civic engagement and community organizing trainings and actions. In 2014 we led a coalition of Native Nations and organizations in California to support the protection of Native American sacred sites and places of cultural and historical importance under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Through our organizing efforts we were able to significantly raise public and tribal awareness about the issue and build tribal capacity to advocate effectively for their position.

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