President Obama's Memorandum On Tribal Relations

In conjunction with the 5 November 2009 Tribal Nations conference, President Obama has issued a White House Memorandum on Tribal Consultation to all executive departments and federal agencies. The Memorandum can be accessed here, and its full text is below:

The United States has a unique legal and political relationship with Indian tribal governments, established through and confirmed by the Constitution of the United States, treaties, statutes, executive orders, and judicial decisions. In recognition of that special relationship, pursuant to Executive Order 13175 of November 6, 2000, executive departments and agencies (agencies) are charged with engaging in regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials in the development of Federal policies that have tribal implications, and are responsible for strengthening the government-to-government relationship between the United States and Indian tribes.

History has shown that failure to include the voices of tribal officials in formulating policy affecting their communities has all too often led to undesirable and, at times, devastating and tragic results. By contrast, meaningful dialogue between Federal officials and tribal officials has greatly improved Federal policy toward Indian tribes. Consultation is a critical ingredient of a sound and productive Federal-tribal relationship.

My Administration is committed to regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials in policy decisions that have tribal implications including, as an initial step, through complete and consistent implementation of Executive Order 13175. Accordingly, I hereby direct each agency head to submit to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), within 90 days after the date of this memorandum, a detailed plan of actions the agency will take to implement the policies and directives of Executive Order 13175. This plan shall be developed after consultation by the agency with Indian tribes and tribal officials as defined in Executive Order 13175. I also direct each agency head to submit to the Director of the OMB, within 270 days after the date of this memorandum, and annually thereafter, a progress report on the status of each action included in its plan together with any proposed updates to its plan.

Each agency's plan and subsequent reports shall designate an appropriate official to coordinate implementation of the plan and preparation of progress reports required by this memorandum. The Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and the Director of the OMB shall review agency plans and subsequent reports for consistency with the policies and directives of Executive Order 13175.

In addition, the Director of the OMB, in coordination with the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, shall submit to me, within 1 year from the date of this memorandum, a report on the implementation of Executive Order 13175 across the executive branch based on the review of agency plans and progress reports. Recommendations for improving the plans and making the tribal consultation process more effective, if any, should be included in this report.
The terms "Indian tribe," "tribal officials," and "policies that have tribal implications" as used in this memorandum are as defined in Executive Order 13175.  The Director of the OMB is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person. Executive departments and agencies shall carry out the provisions of this memorandum to the extent permitted by law and consistent with their statutory and regulatory authorities and their enforcement mechanisms.


Washington State Moves To Protect Tribal Shellfish

A pollution-control agreement between the State of Washington and cruise lines operating in the waters off Western Washington has been expanded to protect shellfish beds, and could become state law during the next year.  Coastal Tribes located near Puget Sound utilize shellfish for food, economic development activities, and cultural purposes.  The state’s prior agreement with the cruise lines allowed cruise ships to dump raw sewage near the coast, posing a significant threat to the natural habitat and the quality and quantity of Tribal shellfish harvests.

The revised agreement prohibits cruise ships carrying 250+ people from releasing sewage within 1/2 mile of commercial or Tribal shellfish beds, requires the installation of pollution monitors to detect discharges, and implements mandatory and immediate reporting requirements for improper discharges. If state lawmakers turn the agreement into law during the next legislative session, cruise ships could face fines and other penalties for not respecting the Tribal shellfish harvest.

 More information on the agreement can be found at the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Pending Child Welfare Legislation Contains Landmark Tribal Provisions

On September 22, 2008 Congress passed The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (H.R. 6893). If signed into law by President Bush, this bill will create access to Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance program while maintaining tribal autonomy.

Under the legislation, Tribes will gain direct access to federal funds for foster care, adoption assistance, kinship guardianship placements and independent living. For each fiscal year beginning in 2009, $3 million has been set aside for technical assistance and for participating Tribes to create their own child welfare programs. There are also provisions for one-time startup grants for Tribes wishing to operate their own Title IV-E program.

The new bill would require Tribes to match funds if they enter into agreements with the federal government to perform services under Title IV-E, thereby requiring analysis by Tribes of the cost/benefit and long term economic feasibility of the programs. Officials with the National Indian Child Welfare Association helped structure the Tribal components of the bill, and leaders in both the Senate and the House focused on child welfare issues for Native American children throughout the legislative process.

Text of the bill and its legislative history may be accessed via govtrack.