“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