U.S. NRC Blog

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“Government-to-Government” — Recognizing Tribal Interests

November is Native American Heritage Month, so it seems a suitable time to highlight the NRC’s current efforts to develop a Tribal Policy Statement and improve our interactions with Native Americans.

Throughout the regulatory process, the NRC works in cooperation with other governmental entities, including federal, state and local governments – and tribes. This cooperation helps to ensure effective communication and to promote greater awareness of the policies, activities and concerns of all parties involved.

Native American tribes have a unique relationship with the NRC and the federal government. There are 566 federally recognized tribes that are “sovereign”— that is, they have the legal authority to govern themselves. As a result, when the NRC meets or consults with tribal representatives, it does so on a “government-to-government” basis, much as it does with the leaders of foreign countries.

The NRC recently published a draft Tribal Protocol Manual to provide more clarity, and to obtain feedback, on how the agency conducts its meetings with tribes. The manual, originally developed as an internal document to provide guidance to NRC staff participating in tribal consultations and interactions, has been published to explain how the NRC conducts these consultations. It will help to create more open and productive working relationships between the NRC and tribal governments. It will also serve as a starting point for the staff to develop a policy statement on tribal consultations.

The manual contains information NRC staff collected from many sources, including Native Americans, NRC staff with experience in interacting with tribes, and other federal agencies with established tribal outreach programs. It will help NRC staff to work more effectively with Native American tribes by providing both sides with a clear roadmap to the regulatory process and the opportunities for interactions within it.

Anyone interested in NRC’s interactions with tribes is invited to comment on the draft and to provide input to the policy statement.

For more information, see the NRC website.

Michelle Ryan
Project Manager
Intergovernmental Liaison Branch

5 responses to ““Government-to-Government” — Recognizing Tribal Interests

  1. Ron September 15, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    This seems like a good thing, but there are “566 federally recognized tribes that are “sovereign”’, and that implies that there are other tribes that are not recognized. Does anyone know what are the “requirements” to be recognized ? Are there a significant number of tribes that are not recognized?

    • Moderator September 16, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      The NRC maintains a government-to-government relationship with federally-recognized Tribes, but does not confer federal recognition and defers to the established processes identified by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

      Historically, most of today’s federally-recognized Tribes received federal recognition status through treaties, acts of Congress, presidential executive orders or other federal administrative actions, or federal court decisions. In 1978, the Department of the Interior issued regulations governing the Federal Acknowledgment Process to handle requests for federal recognition from Tribal groups. These regulations – 25 C.F.R. Part 83 – were revised in 1994 and are still in effect. In 1994, Congress enacted the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act, which formally established three ways in which an Indian group may become federally recognized: by Act of Congress; by the administrative procedures under 25 C.F.R. Part 83; or by decision of a United States court. For additional details, please visit the BIA Web site at http://www.bia.gov/FAQs/ .

      Michelle L. Ryan

  2. Tutor Issaquah WA May 16, 2013 at 2:04 am

    Is this for real? I hope so because all I see on the news is the Federal government’s mistreatment and unfulfilled promises to native American tribes. 566 tribes only? A far cry from the thousands that used to inhabit the land until the white man exterminated most of the tribes.

  3. Sidler February 20, 2013 at 3:44 am

    I totally agree with how good Tribal Policy Statement is. They helped a lot with relationships and the community as well. Hoping to see more projects that can help a lot to the society. Thank you for this post. I’m looking forward to see more of your posts.

  4. Loren M. November 23, 2012 at 12:37 am

    I couldn’t agree more that its good to have the Tribal Policy Statement to improve and develop the relationship with Native Americans and community.

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