The United States federal maintains a government-to-government relationship with the 574 federally recognized Native American Indian tribes and Alaska Native entities. Under U.S. law, Native American tribes are distinct, independent political communities. Acknowledging the history of past mistreatment and destructive policies that have hurt tribal communities, the U.S. continues efforts to restore and heal relations with Native Americans, respect tribal self-determination, ensure meaningful consultation with tribes on matters affecting their interests, and work in partnership with tribal governments to support the health and development of native communities.
The U.S. Department of the Interior is the primary federal agency charged with carrying out the United States’ trust responsibility to American Indian and Alaska Native people, maintaining the government-to-government relationship with the federally recognized Indian tribes, and promoting and supporting tribal self-determination. Interior provides services to 1.9 million American Indian and Alaska Natives that include education, social services, economic development, law enforcement, administration of tribal courts, housing improvement, disaster relief, road maintenance, and natural resource management. Interior also administers programs and laws to protect, conserve and repatriate Indian cultural resources.
Interior’s special role and expertise with Indian affairs enables the Department to play a unique role in U.S. international relations. The Department of State regularly seeks Interior’s advice in responding to proposals or questions regarding human rights and indigenous issues that arise in the United Nations or other international settings. Interior regularly exchanges useful information and experiences with government counterparts in other countries working to improve the situation of indigenous communities such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Interior’s experience on indigenous issues also informs development assistance: for instance, Interior works with the U.S. Agency for International Development in the Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon, to share U.S. and Indian tribal experiences in other countries where indigenous communities are seeking to strengthen their capacity to govern their own affairs and manage lands and natural resources.