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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Policy, Management and Budget
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Listening Session

Summary of Issues Raised

Welcome and Introductions
Summary of Symposium to Date
Tribal Comments
Federal Responses
Next Steps

Facilitators: Dexter Albert and Lucy Moore

WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS: Joe Muniz, Jicarilla Apache Tribe, welcomed the group of more than 60 federal and tribal representatives. Agencies represented included: Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Department of Agriculture, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, Bureau of Indian Affairs, US Geological Survey, Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Marine Corps, Department of Homeland Security, US Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers and the US Border Patrol.

Executive leaders representing the federal agencies introduced themselves. The facilitators introduced themselves and described their role, to make the listening session as productive as possible, to keep on track, and to keep a record of the issues raised.

SUMMARY OF SYMPOSIUM TO DATE: Lucy offered some reflections on what she had heard in the last day and a half at the symposium.

  • Consultation is not just the law, it is the right thing to do for many reasons.
  • Good consultation is as much about the journey as the destination.
  • Good consultation is based on relationships; relationships are built through listening and empathizing; and relationships are built over time.
  • Some guidance for federal agencies for good consultation:
    • Allow plenty of time.
    • Involve the tribe early in the process.
    • "Watch your posture" as federal representatives -- be humble, be human
    • Understand that in some cases tribal capacity is limited; help build that capacity during the consultation process.
    • Be clear about where the power lies and how decision-making will work.
    • Keep a written record.
    • Measure, evaluate, and learn from your successes and failures.
  • Some guidance for tribes:
    • Be proactive; put your sovereignty to use by making your voices heard in consultation.
    • "Be there" -- don't let others speak for you; don't be absent.
    • Be organized with respect to tribal policies, roles, and plans


Budgets and Reimbursements: Arvin Trujillo, Director of Natural Resources, Navajo Nation, raised the issue of federal budget processes and procedures. "How can we get a foot in the door to discuss budgets?" he asked. The Navajo Nation suffers from late delivery of funds, creating a feast or famine situation every year. If the different "pots of money" could be coordinated in their paperwork requirements and scheduling, it would help tribes enormously. He would like to discuss the upcoming Farm Bill with USDA.

Vivian Juan-Sanders, Chairwoman, Tohono O'odham, also spoke of the frustration of the slow reimbursement process.

Arnold Taylor, Sr., Director of Natural Resources, Hopi Tribe, suggested that the federal agencies include a line item in their budgets for building partnerships with tribes. He asked how tribes could help the agencies secure this kind of funding. He expressed concern about the tax implications of issuing 1099's for receiving federal money, and said there should be other options.

Need to take time: Many of those who spoke emphasized the need to take time for the consultation process. Vivian Juan-Saunders, Chairwoman, Tohono O'odham, said that timelines rarely allow for adequate consultation to take place. She added that understanding and allowing time for internal tribal processes and protocols is critical to include in developing the consultation time line.

Need for trust and respect: Chairwoman Juan-Saunders said that trust and respect for the land, the people and the sovereignty of Native governments was key to building a good working relationship.

Loretta Jackson, Director of Historic Preservation, Hualapai Tribe, emphasized that it is important to keep working on these relationships once they have been established.

A spokesperson named Pino [Manuel Pino] from the American Indian Studies Program at Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community spoke of the plenary power doctrine in the commerce clause. The United Nations, he said, found that doctrine inherently racist. Compounding that are a history of broken treaties, the work of the Claims Commission, the Indian Reorganization Act that imposed the U.S. model of government on tribes, the influence of the Hollywood mindset and athletic teams that trivialize and stereotype Indian people. He praised tribes for not relying on the U.S. government for legal authority and the definition of sovereignty, but taking authority themselves, as they have at Yucca Mountain, Handford, the Black Hills, and San Francisco Peaks.

Grassroots tribal involvement: Loretta Jackson, Hualapai Tribe, said that every tribal member has a right to understand the proposed action or project, because these proposals can have a large impact on individuals. Those consulting with a tribal government need to be sure that citizens, as well as the elected officials, are included.

Need for collaboration/role of lawsuits: Joe Muniz, Executive Director Department of Natural Resources, Jicarilla Apache Nation, suggested that there was much to be gained by collaborating between regions, both at the federal and the tribal levels. He added that the number of significant lawsuits pending makes negotiation difficult, but not impossible.

Protection of culture: Loretta Jackson, Hualapai, told the group that the protection of culture is critical if native communities are to survive and be healthy.

Off-reservation interests: Loretta Jackson, Hualapai Tribe, reminded the group that tribes also have interests off the reservation -- properties, cultural sites, development -- and that they need to be participants in state, county and city arenas, as well as federal.

Mining issues: Perry Shirley, Assistant Director, Navajo Nation Minerals Department, noted that the Office of Surface Mining and Minerals Management Service were not present at the symposium. The Navajo Nation needs agreements with these agencies, as they have with the BIA and BLM.

Clean up funding: Arnold Taylor, Sr., asked how much authority was delegated to BIA regional offices. He described a situation where the tribe was saddled with expensive surveys prior to having to clean up a waste site. Where is the trust money for this kind of expense, he asked?

Good communication: Arvin Trujillo, Navajo Nation, urged federal agencies and tribes to meet regularly -- not wait for a crisis. This kind of regular contact leads to real dialogue that leads to a good working relationship. He also suggested that both federal and tribal staff be offered training in communication skills and cultural sensitivity.

Obstacles to communication: Perry Shirley, Navajo Nation, pointed out that the differences between federal agencies, and the differences between regional or state offices of different agencies, make communication and working relationships difficult for tribes. Some offices within the same federal agencies don't even communicate.


Building trust: Janice Whitney, EPA Region 2, urged other federal staff to be proactive -- go into the field, find individual tribal staff who works on your particular issue, and listen and learn how to work together. She also suggested building regional tribal caucuses, as EPA has done with their Regional Tribal Operating Committees. This gives tribes a chance to build some consensus on a regional basis before dealing with the agency or work on regional issues that affect more than one tribe.

Hector Magallanes, Environmental Engineer, White Sands Missile Base, US Army, said that he has learned the importance of respect and trust between the federal and tribal governments. He understands better how to work toward a relationship based on trust, and is going to focus on this in his work. Finding common ground, he added, means really understanding the other side. This means involving the tribal community as early as possible in the process, and asking them how and when the consultation should proceed. "There will be rough spots, but don't give up."

Randy Updike, Central Regional Executive, USGS, observed that the world is becoming very crowded -- "like a family cooped up in a cabin for the winter." The issues are more complex and require more creative solutions. We must have mutual understanding and be able to give and take.

Mary Shirley, Attorney, Department of Housing and Urban Development, asked for a basic education in the fundamentals of the trust responsibility concept. She also said that it is critical for agency staff to understand tribal culture, and that the staff shouldn't be shy about asking questions, and the tribes should share as is appropriate.

Use SWS contacts: Wesley Ward, Western Regional Geologist, USGS, encouraged everyone who attended the symposium to think of fellow attendees as potential partners. He and others emphasized that they would happily accept calls from anyone and that the registration list is a good way to begin a productive working relationship.

Tribal capacity building: Wesley Ward, USGS, noted that the federal government was moving toward increased out-sourcing, and that this might present an opportunity for tribes to build their capacity.

NEXT STEPS: Although other SWS initiatives may be dissolving, the Tribal Relations Work Group remains vital. The group considered possible next steps for the Work Group to strengthen federal/tribal relationships.

  • Agencies and tribes should share the policies and methods of consultation, and their experiences -- what has worked and what have not.
  • Those who attended the symposium should consider each other potential contacts and resources; tribes were urged to call on the federal representatives present to help work through the federal system, or call upon fellow colleagues who do similar work with other tribes.
  • Plan another symposium: Potential agenda items include:
    • basic education for feds on trust responsibility
    • exchange lessons about what works and doesn't work in the consultation process; identify principles for good consultation
  • Understand that SWS is changing:
    • listen to guidance of tribes to evolve SWS in productive directions
    • Increase participation from other federal agencies and more SW tribes.
    • foster more communication between tribes and federal agencies

CLOSING: Harv Forsgren, Regional Forester, Southwest Region 3, expressed his appreciation for the session and thanked everyone for their contributions.

Summary prepared by Lucy Moore. Please contact her at 505-820-2166, or with any questions or comments.