Working Effectively with Tribal Governments

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Working Effectively with Tribal Governments

Transcript Of Working Effectively with Tribal Governments

American Indian Environmental Office
Working Effectively with Tribal Governments

Training Overview
Welcome! This training will provide EPA employees with the skills and knowledge to more effectively work with federally recognized tribal governments. It will introduce you to the terms necessary for understanding EPA’s work with tribal governments, as well as how the Agency develops and maintains an effective working relationship with our tribal government partners.
This year’s training focuses on two important topics: the federal trust responsibility and the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program (GAP).
If you spend all or part of your time working with tribes, or have an interest in learning more about tribes, we recommend contacting EPA’s American Indian Environmental Office (AIEO) at 202-564-0303 to be directed to additional resources.

Training Goals
This year’s Working Effectively with Tribal Governments (WETG) training has the following goals:
• Provide an understanding of the basic terms and concepts that guide the EPA – tribal government relationship;
• Describe the federal trust responsibility and provide information on the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program (GAP);
• Outline the basic structure of EPA’s tribal program and how to get assistance on tribal issues; and
• Briefly touch on Native American culture.

Course Outline

Section I: Indian Tribes and Terms

Section II:

Federal Trust Responsibility
Indian Environmental General Assistance Program (GAP)

Section III: EPA Tribal Program Structure

Section IV: Cross-Cultural Communications and Partnership

Section I: Indian Tribes and Terms
There are 566 federally recognized tribes spread throughout the United States. Over 200 of these federally recognized tribes are located in Alaska and are often referred to as Alaska Native Villages. For this training, when we use the term “tribe” we are referring to a federally recognized Indian tribe.
According to the 2010 Census, 5.2 million people selfidentified as Native American either alone or in combination with one or more other races. Roughly 1.1 million people identifying as Native American live in tribal statistical land areas. Another 3.5 million people, who did not identify as Native American, also live in these same areas.
Many self-identified Native Americans live in other areas. Anchorage, Alaska (12.4%) and Tulsa, Oklahoma (9.2%) have the highest percentage of Native American residents, and New York City has the largest population at over 110,000 people.

Indian Country on the Map

Here are some facts to consider:

• Tribal lands consist of 55 million acres or roughly 2.3% of the United States land base. This is an area larger than New England.
• Individual reservation sizes vary from 16 million acres (roughly the size of West Virginia) to under 10 acres.

Nine of EPA’s regions include federally recognized tribal governments*:

Region 1 – 10 tribes Region 2 – 8 tribes Region 3 – 0 tribes Region 4 – 6 tribes Region 5 – 35 tribes

Region 6 – 66 tribes Region 7 – 9 tribes Region 8 – 27 tribes Region 9 – 145 tribes Region 10 – 271 tribes

*You may notice that these numbers add up to more tribal governments (577) than the number of tribes (566) listed on the previous page. Good catch! Both numbers are correct since some federally recognized tribes have more than one separately elected tribal government that EPA works with to protect human health and the environment.

Indian Lands in the 10 EPA Regions

Important Terms
The following terms are essential to understanding the EPA tribal program. A WETG training goal is to provide a basic understanding of each term and to provide an in-depth discussion on one or more terms each year. The two terms this year’s WETG training focuses on are 1) the federal trust responsibility, and 2) the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program (GAP).
• Federally Recognized Indian Tribe • Indian Country • EPA Policy for the Administration of Environmental Programs on
Indian Reservations, or the EPA Indian Policy • Tribal Consultation and Coordination • Tribal Jurisdiction • Environmental Justice • Direct Implementation • American Indian Environmental Office.

Federally Recognized Indian Tribe
Why do we partner with tribes at all? It is because the United States government has a unique and longstanding legal and political relationship with Indian tribes as provided by the United States Constitution, treaties, statutes, executive orders, and court decisions. No other group in the United States has a similar legal status.
Federally recognized Indian tribes are those tribes that have met criteria established by the Department of the Interior or are named by Congress as eligible to receive federal benefits, federal services, and federal protections. The special relationship federally recognized tribes have with the United States is known as the government-to-government relationship.
Treaties with tribes remain significant in our current time because they established the foundation of many federal-tribal relationships, typically reserved certain lands, generally called reservations, and recognized rights of tribes. Treaties are still valid and still the law!

Indian Country
Indian country is another unique term in federal Indian law, and is one of the most important terms for EPA’s work. The term “Indian country” is defined by federal statute as: “(a) all land within the limits of any Indian reservation under the jurisdiction of the United States…, (b) all dependent Indian communities within the borders of the United States…, and (c) all Indian allotments.” You may also hear the terms such as “tribal lands” or “Indian lands” used interchangeably with Indian country.
In Indian country, the federal government, rather than a state, normally has jurisdiction and authority to carry out federal law. Under certain circumstances tribes may receive authority from EPA to carry out federal laws. Additionally, tribes have inherent authority to enact and enforce their own laws in Indian country.
TribesTermsRelationshipIndian CountryAssistance Program