Department of State
April 12, 2021
“Consultation on Consultations”
The Department of State held a “Consultation on Consultations” on April 12, 2021, to gather input for its Tribal Consultation Policy and Plan Concerning Tribal Consultations (“the policy”). Approximately 100 tribal leaders, their representatives, and organizations participated in the consultation via WebEx and phone. The consultation was hosted by the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Jonathan Moore, and was also attended by PaaWee Rivera, Director of Tribal Affairs and a Senior Advisor within the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Additionally, Tribal Nations and organizations were invited to submit written comments for the policy.
All comments were given serious consideration and those deemed appropriate were incorporated into the policy to the extent possible. Some of the comments required further review from Department leadership and were not feasible to immediately include in the policy, but continue to be considered. Comments that were specific to issues facing specific Tribes were shared with appropriate bureaus for follow-up.
The policy was approved and signed by the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and forwarded to the Office of Management and Budget on April 26, 2021.
The Input Process and Response to Comments Received
The current policy is derived from historical documents and previous comments received by Tribes and organizations, and then updated to incorporate comments from the time of the most recent consultation. Commenters noted that the Department of State was the only cabinet-level agency that, as far as was known, had never developed a publicly-released, formal policy for government-to-government consultation with Tribal Nations. The public release of the policy addresses the concerns of those comments.
This report, in part, also responds to comments received saying reports should be produced on all consultation matters in a timely manner and released to Tribal Governments in a timely manner; that the Department should ensure such reports summarize what took place and how Tribal Government input has been resolved, including justifications when Tribal Government feedback is not incorporated into the final outcome.
Part A: Comments Considered and Included in the Policy
Several themes emerged from the comments, which were directly included in the policy.
- The Department of State, like all federal agencies, should conduct its relationships with Indian tribes in accordance with the federal trust responsibility, tribal rights of self-government and tribal sovereignty. Indian tribes exercise inherent sovereign powers over their members and territory. The United States recognizes the right of Indian tribes to self-government and supports tribal sovereignty and self-determination.
- Meaningful consultation should occur as early as possible and long before a policy or action will take effect. There should be a collaborative process between tribes and the Department. Tribes need time to determine whether they should partake in the consultation process, such as when potential tribal cultural resources are involved. Providing tribes with ample notice of consultation will allow for tribes to make these determinations and provide an adequate response.
- Consultations should be meaningful, and information exchanged during these consultations should be appropriately considered during the decision-making process. Consultation should not be a “check-the-box” process but rather a two-way dialogue between tribes and the Department.
- Tribes seek a State counterpart of decision-making rank, someone who will remain in the position for a long time.
- An understanding of the values of tribal cultures is needed in order to instill meaning into any proposal that affects tribes.
- The State Department should create a dedicated Tribal Nation web portal on the Department of State’s website, as both a platform for internal engagement of various departments and offices and also to track the output of the State Department that Tribes could access and keep abreast of the latest developments in the international political sphere.
Part B: Comments Requiring Further Consideration
Comments included a few other themes that will require further consideration by the State Department. Further consideration is required due to the need for new resources to be secured, or new policy to be established. These comments can primarily be summarized as:
- The State Department should establish an Office of Indigenous Affairs headed by an ambassador-level Special Envoy for Indigenous Affairs.
- The State Department should require all staff to undergo basic training on the U.S.-Tribal government-to-government relationship; to make all training materials public so Tribal Nations can comment on them and offer suggestions for their improvement; and to ensure additional training occurs for those positions most commonly involved in Tribal Government consultation. Related comments suggested establishing a Tribal Advisory Council to cultivate meaningful and ongoing dialogue and collaboration between Tribal Nations and the Department.
- The State Department should submit the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to the Senate for a Resolution of Ratification.
Part C: Comments Referred to Relevant Bureaus
The final category of comments could be summarized as pertaining to specific issues affecting specific tribes or groups of tribes. Those comments have been forwarded to relevant bureaus for follow-up and action as appropriate.
The Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources will serve as the Department official with principal responsibility for the Department’s implementation of the policy. Although the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources has ultimate responsibility for coordinating implementation of this Policy, day-to-day implementation rests with the particular Department bureau(s), office(s), or staff(s) primarily responsible for the proposed Department policy in question. Each relevant office will be asked to designate a point of contact once it is determined that a proposed policy or activity is appropriate for consultation. The Department intends to review this Policy from time to time, in consultation with Tribal Governments, in order to make any revisions as may be necessary. E.O. 13175, as called for in Section 1(b) of the January 26, 2021, Presidential Memorandum.
The Department will provide a progress report on the status of actions included in this plan, with any proposed updates, to the Office of Management and Budget within 270 days of the Presidential Memorandum, and in annual reports thereafter.
Learn more: The 2021 Plan to Implement Executive Order 13175: Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments
Learn more: The American Jobs Plan Supports Tribal Communities
Learn more: The Columbia River Treaty
Public Inquiries on the Columbia River Treaty can be e-mailed to: ColumbiaRiverTreaty@state.gov
Learn more: Protecting Native American Heritage