Interior Department Strengthens Tribal Consultation Policies and Procedures

DOI Heritage Month

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of the Interior has announced new policies and procedures to strengthen and fulfill the federal government’s responsibility to ensure regular and meaningful consultation with American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, as well as a second policy for consultation with Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Corporations.

“Tribes deserve a seat at the decision-making table before policies are made that impact their communities,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “Our ongoing efforts to evolve and strengthen consultation policies and procedures will ensure that tribal nations can engage at the highest levels of the federal government on the issues that matter most to their people. From climate resilience to clean energy investments, the Biden-Harris administration has made available unprecedented resources for Indian Country – but we can only maximize those investments by working directly with tribes.”

“We must develop collaborative partnerships with tribal nations so that we uphold our trust responsibilities and build consensus when developing policies that impact tribes,” said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland. “These updated policies and procedures will further our work at the Department to protect and strengthen tribal sovereignty. Consultation is the cornerstone of the political relationship between the United States and tribal nations as we work to revitalize the way of life for Indian people.”

The announcement was made during the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs consulted with Indian tribes and ANCSA Corporations to gather feedback from tribal leaders and ANCSA Corporation representatives on the new policies and procedures.

The tribal  consultation policy and procedures seek to, among other things:

  • Bolster the Department’s consultation policy to encourage early, interactive, pre-decisional, informative and transparent consultation
  • Establish a model for seeking consensus
  • Require that Department staff undergo training before participating in consultation
  • Codify the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee (STAC)
  • Prioritize Departmental statutory or regulation waivers when in the best interest of tribes
  • Clarify that the Department’s decision-makers must invite tribes to engage in consultation
  • Require a record of consultation

The Alaska Native Corporation Consultation policy and procedures seek to, among other things:

  • Outline the requirements for consultation between ANCSA Corporation officials and Department officials
  • Clarify that the Departmental Manual chapter applies to all Department bureaus and offices
  • Identify the responsibilities of the Department bureaus and offices in the consultation process
  • Establish an ANCSA Corporation consultation annual report for Department bureaus and offices

The Department’s new policies help further the policy goals and intent of President Biden’s “Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships,” which outlines the administration’s efforts to engage Indigenous communities early and often in federal decision-making.