Proposed changes to agency Tribal Relations Policy

In the afternoon, we focused on the work we have been doing internally around updating our tribal relations policy and responding to calls to pull back authority to consult under Executive Order 21-02 Archaeological and Cultural Resources (PDF). The announcement of our commitment to recalling the authority to consult was met with much surprise and support!

Our Tribal Resource Group has spun off a small taskforce to begin mapping the tribal elements of EO 21-02 work across all divisions. Once we document our data and process, we will be able to see how and where the process is working and where it can be streamlined. The feedback we have received from the tribes is that the status quo is extremely administratively burdensome.
Another approach we are working through is programmatic agreements with the tribes to give permission in some bodies of work, based on specific criteria set individually by the tribe, for projects that don’t break ground or by location or type. We will do this work in partnership with agency divisions, and full transparency is our goal.

OTR has moved away from a long prescriptive policy to a shorter draft policy, providing guidance and pointing to living documents for detailed support on how to carry out the type of tribal relations appropriate for your project. Those who attended COMTAC were supportive of the idea and particularly enjoyed the flexibility of being able to update the resource guide and glossary at the request of a tribal partner or internally (with notification to tribal partners).

The intention of this policy update is to extend support and direction beyond formal government-to-government relations and provide policy support for internal educational and training opportunities and process improvements.

During COMTAC, we shared a 10-week comment period for tribal feedback on all three documents. We plan to share more detail during our upcoming Real Talk, where we will also discuss establishing OTR Live-and-Learn Sessions. At those, OTR team members will be available in a non-formal setting to talk about any aspect of the policy (or other tribal engagement) you might be interested in before we take the policy through formal adoption processes.

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