DOI Hosts Consultation Sessions with Tribal Nations

Kyle Knox

Gila River Indian News


For the first time since President Biden took office, the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) held a Tribal consultation session on March 10. 

The session – part of a week of consultations with Tribal communities around the country – gave Native communities an opportunity to share their unique needs with the DOI.


“What we are trying to do is make sure that all agencies at the Department of Interior such as National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and other agencies at DOI are also in these sessions hearing directly from tribal leaders,” said Brian Newland, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, who leads the consultations.


The consultations were a directive set forth by President Biden per an Executive Memo on Jan. 26. President Biden’s memo states: “It is a priority of my Administration to make respect for Tribal sovereignty and self-governance, commitment to fulfilling Federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations, and regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal Nations cornerstones of Federal Indian policy.”


The consultation sessions were authorized under a memorandum under the Biden administration to strengthen nation-to-nation relationships with tribal governments and for future recommendations to improve access to resources for Native people. 

According to the memorandum it said, “American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Nations are sovereign governments recognized under the Constitution of the United States, treaties, statutes, Executive Orders, and court decisions.” 


This action is lock in-step with Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments), that requires all executive departments and agencies to engage in regular and meaningful consultation with tribal officials. 


“We appreciate the chance to speak directly to leaders with the Department of Interior and the Biden Administration,” said Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis. “The President promised on the campaign trail that Tribal communities would have a seat at the table and this shows him keeping that promise.”


Newland said he’s eager to learn about the best practices that many tribal communities have developed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. “Now that we have been working remotely,” he explained, “How can we incorporate some of that into the consultation process so that it works better and make it more accessible for tribes?”


Newland acknowledged the work of the Community and said, “I really look to being a part of this process with Gila River, and all tribes, whether it is providing economic relief, vaccinations, getting kids back to school.”  He expressed his gratitude for the leadership of Governor Stephen Roe Lewis for helping to bring out the best in people during this difficult time.


When the consultation is complete, the data will provide an extensive report for the federal government and its agencies. In the future tribal input from the consultations will be considered in future policy and decision-making.  The final report and its findings will be submitted to President Biden and shared publicly beginning in April.