Multiple federal laws and Executive Orders require that federal agencies consult with tribal governments and emphasize our responsibility to so, but the reality is that this is done in a haphazard manner that relies on letters and phone calls. The tribes are repeating the same information over and over to multiple agencies and even to different parties within the same agency. This is frustrating for everyone concerned and leads to many issues where consultations are unnecessarily delayed because the federal agency does not have an understanding of a tribe’s concerns and the tribe does not have an understanding of an agency’s goals and concerns.
In speaking with a member of a tribal government today, they acknowledged that cost was a barrier to more frequent interaction and relationship building between tribes and federal agencies and that they often only hear from an agency when it needs something. Then they asked why couldn’t multiple federal agencies collaborate and hold a multi-jurisdictional meeting. The federal agencies could share costs, information, and best practices. The tribes could interact with many agencies at one time and optimize their time and efforts, an important issue since many of them may have only 1 or 2 people in an entire department.
For instance, a Multi-Jurisdictional Tribal Consultation meeting for X State could be held at a military installation (DOD donation of space and equipment), one agency could be responsible for the cost of providing published materials, and several agencies could provide financial support for tribes to attend. We would be better able to fulfill our responsibilities and by sharing in the cost burden we would all save funds.