United States consultation policy with Indian Nations

An important part of the relationship between the United States and the Indian Nation governments is the interplay and consultation between these entities. The U.S. has charged itself with trustee responsibilities for many tribal and individual Indian assets as a result of the long history of federal Indian policies.

Most tribes and Indians are very disappointed, however, on how the U.S. carries out its duties to fully and completely consult with Indians before many federal decisions that impact very important tribal and Indian interests and rights.

The Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Indian Echo Hawk recently submitted a Draft Consultation Policy to Tribal Leaders and are seeking comments by March 14.

According to the federal government this policy creates a framework for a greater role for tribes
in decisions that affect Indian Country.

Interior wants input from Indian country on the draft policy to guide the Department in carrying out President Obama’s directive to all federal departments to develop ways to improve communication and consultation with Tribal leaders in order to develop positive solutions for issues affecting the First Americans.

The draft policy contains detailed requirements and guidelines for Interior officials and managers to ensure they are using the best practices and most innovative methods to achieve meaningful consultation with Indian Tribes. The Department will identify and seek to address impediments, both external and internal, to improving its consultation processes. In order to increase accountability, bureaus and office heads will implement training, performance standards, and comprehensive annual reporting to the Secretary on the results of their consultations, including the scope, cost and effectiveness of these efforts.

The draft policy was developed in response to President Obama’s Nov. 5, 2009 White House Memorandum on Tribal Consultation, which signaled this Administration’s commitment to strengthening the government-to-government relationship between the United States and Tribal nations. The President’s memorandum supported tribal consultation as “a critical ingredient of a sound and productive Federal-tribal relationship” and called on all federal agencies to develop plans of action to establish tribal consultation policy.

Secretary Salazar directed departmental and bureau officials to conduct an assessment of current policy and convene a series of meetings with tribal representatives aimed at improving current tribal consultation practices. The process included extensive meetings in seven cities with 300 tribal representatives and more than 250 federal officials participating.

View the Draft Tribal Consultation Policy.

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