Biden Signs Memo Bolstering Tribal Consultation

Feb 1, 2021Federal Regulation, News, Tribal Sovereignty

Last week, President Biden signed a Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships, reaffirming the policies announced in Executive Order 13175 and directing every federal agency to outline plans for how they can better consult with federally recognized Tribes.

Executive Order 13175 was initially signed by President Bill Clinton on November 6, 2000, and has been reaffirmed by subsequent presidents over the past two decades. It “charges all executive departments and agencies with engaging in regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal officials in the development of Federal policies that have Tribal implications,” according to the Biden memo.

“Tribal consultation under this order strengthens the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the United States and Tribal Nations,” the memo continues.

“It is a priority of my administration to make respect for Tribal sovereignty and self-governance, commitment to fulfilling federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations, and regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal Nations cornerstones of Federal Indian policy,” wrote Biden in the memo. “The United States has made solemn promises to Tribal Nations for more than two centuries. Honoring those commitments is particularly vital now, as our Nation faces crises related to health, the economy, racial justice, and climate change—all of which disproportionately harm Native Americans.”

During the Trump Administration, Tribes levied charges that they were ignored during public lands decisions to reduce the extent of national monuments on lands that tribes considered sacred, according to coverage of the memo in The Hill.

“To do this one week in office really speaks to his commitment to Indian Country. Indian Country really just wants to be engaged and be consulted and having the executive order means we have it in writing now,” said Nikki Pitre, executive director of the Center for Native American Youth and member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, according to the article.  

In addition to the Tribal Consultation memo, Biden recently nominated Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), a member of the Laguna Pueblo,  as secretary of the Interior. If confirmed, she will be the first Native American Interior secretary and Cabinet official, and will oversee the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other agencies impacting Tribes.

“History demonstrated that we best serve Native American people when Tribal governments are empowered to lead their communities, and when federal officials speak with and listen to Tribal leaders in formulating federal policy that affects Tribal Nations,” the memo says.

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