Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva yesterday introduced legislation that establishes legal guidelines for executive departments and agencies to follow when consulting with Native American tribes.
HR 5023, the Requirements, Expectations, and Standard Procedures for Executive Consultation with Tribes (RESPECT) Act, mandates that agencies seek, discuss, and consider tribal views regarding any federal activity with tribal impacts, and directs agencies to seek mutually acceptable courses of action whenever possible.
In 2000, President Clinton set forth a policy mandating executive agency consultation with tribes in Executive Order 13175, but because the policy was never codified in law, federal agencies often notify tribes of actions that will affect them only after the decision-making process has already occurred.
“Native American communities cannot be an afterthought in federal policymaking,” Grijalva said upon introducing the bill. “Consultation and discussion are a necessity, not a favor to be granted one day and denied the next. We need an effective, uniform policy across the board, and that’s what this bill achieves.”
Features of the bill include:
•Setting forth detailed procedures for the timing, arrangement, format, implementation, culmination, and documentation of executive agency consultation with tribes.
•Protecting sensitive tribal information, such as the location of sacred sites and other details of cultural and religious practices.
•Instructing agencies to recognize tribal sovereignty and minimize agency involvement in tribal affairs.
•Setting into law the provision of Executive Order 13175 that expedites the processing of Indian tribal waiver applications, and maximizing tribal latitude through the waiver process.
•Providing judicial recourse for tribes when Federal agencies fail to fulfill their consultation obligation.
While numerous laws and regulations establish the parameters of the federal government’s relationship with Indian tribes, Congress has never standardized governmental behavior as part of that relationship. The RESPECT Act rectifies this by guaranteeing that federal-tribal relations take place on the government-to-government basis that sovereign tribal status demands.
“Tribes not only deserve this recognition, they need it to conduct their own affairs,” Grijalva said. “Whether it’s an environmental, economic or social issue, planning ahead is difficult for a tribal government when a federal agency can change the situation without warning. This bill will reduce conflict across the board and ensure that all interested parties are brought to the table before federal action is taken, and I call on my colleagues to support it wholeheartedly.”