Talking Circle: Participant Reflection and Next Steps
This discussion was very free-form, building upon each other's comments and issues. The essence of the conversation is conveyed here, without any attempt to identify individual speakers.
Where do we go from here? The need for education in various forms has been clearly stated. Where do we get more information? What are the next steps?
There has been a lot of talk about developing relationships. My agency deals with thousands of facilities, but doesn't have particular sites. What is the best way to develop relationships where we don't have a site? Do we develop relationships with every single tribe?
There are regional offices. Those regional offices have a line office that has contact with every single tribe. When an issue arises, gravitate to the office that is in the closest proximity to the area. Use other agencies that have a similar function. Another agency may have field offices that are very local. In an area like Alaska, send out letters to all the tribal leaders and let them know you want to talk.
As a project is starting up, think about what tribal issues may arise and let your people know, give them some preparation beforehand.
On a program level, you can distribute information so tribes have some idea of what you are doing. Also, work with other agencies that may be doing similar projects.
Also use tribal consortia such as the Federation of Alaska Natives. The Bureau of Indian Affairs maintains a list of all tribal leaders and contact information. For an overall organization, try the National Congress of American Indians. The best bet is regional consortia.
There are also websites where key Native issues are posted.
Inter-tribal organizations are helpful in opening the door prior to actual consultation. We all need to consult with one another.
Maybe we can have workshops like this once a year; brown bag once a month would be helpful as well. Perhaps everyone can contribute names of people from our own agencies. I know it would have helped my colleagues in my office to hear success stories from other agencies. It is important to let folks know what it means to do their homework.
We need a central clearinghouse for best practices. We need a group like this here in Washington. We also need to teach the younger people. We will not be here forever. We need to get the word out that we are all interconnected.
Agencies don't coordinate, which puts extra pressure on tribes. We should have an interagency tribal capacity working group. We need to not only share ideas, but work together.
I'd like to see some of these dialogues that can answer some of the challenges. Broad conversations that provide a no-pressure way to define, explore, and then collect it. Maybe we can get to the bottom of it. I would like to see it somehow build. Also, the dialogue in Washington is going to be different than the dialogue in the field.
How do we get the word to mid-level management?
We have to find ways of getting to others besides the people who already know the issues. The Ethics office at OPM has done a good job of developing bite-sized training.
How much consultation is enough? As long as there are Indians living in this country, you will consult. There is no start and finish. There is no such thing as "enough consultation."
Perhaps we should have a brown bag to engage agency attorneys about this question and the function of lawyers in the private sector.
Often, when dealing with certain agencies to set up consultation meetings, the response is, "you are setting me up for an attack." How do we overcome that mentality? Knowing the limits of the conversation and knowing that these things are uncomfortable for some people.
It is not setting someone up for an attack; it is an opportunity for them to see and deal with the consequences of their actions.
Scientists and attorneys have to have solid information -- they don't deal well with the esoteric. That's what Indian affairs is. We can't pass the buck to the attorneys and scientists.
Sometimes naming a situation as a conflict can open a dialogue.