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Tribal Consultation

I. Introduction

What is Tribal Consultation? Tribal consultation is the federally mandated process for timely and meaningful notification, consideration and discussion with tribes on actions proposed by Federal, State and local governments that may impact tribal lands and property.

Who should participate in this training? Any official involved in tribal transportation planning.

A figure rests his arm on his knee and has a question mark floating above his head.

How will I benefit? You will learn what tribal consultation is and how it works.

This module has six parts:

  • I. Introduction.Topic description. Practice While You Learn!.
  • II. Tribal SovereigntyDefinition and Federal directives.
  • III. What is Tribal Consultation?Definition and overview.
  • IV: Federal, State and MPO Practices. Examples of consultation practices.
  • V. Toolbox, Key Points and Checklist.Summary.
  • Appendix. Continued reading. Practice While You Learn! answer.

Why is Tribal Consultation important?Actions taken by Federal, State and local governments may negatively impact tribal lands and property. Consultation is the orderly process for early notification by these governments to tribal governments. It enables discussion, consideration and input from the tribal government before the action is taken.

How does this module relate to other modules in the training series? This topic is closely aligned to the Partnering and Leveraging module which, along with this module, helps foster government-to-government relationships between the Federal government and tribes.

What can I expect from this module? The learning objective is to explain tribal consultation and what it involves. This module offers definitions of tribal consultation and tribal sovereignty and how they are related. It explains the Federal laws and executive orders that govern tribal consultation. Examples of the consultation practices of Federal and State governments and Metropolitan Planning Organizations are also provided. This is followed with a toolbox of concepts, key points and a convenient checklist that will assist your understanding and work in tribal consultation. Another aid is the Practice While You Learn! in Figure 2. Here a hypothetical problem in tribal consultation is presented. As you read through and study this module, consider ways to solve the problem. The appendix contains a reading list and one possible answer to the Practice While You Learn! problem.

Figure 2: Practice While You Learn!

The scenario below is referenced throughout the module to help you "Practice While You Learn" about the consultation process.

Tribal - State DOT Consultation

Today the Tribal Planning Director received notification from the State DOT on proposed action to improve State Route 456. This route is 5 miles north of the reservation. It will be widened and extended to serve new housing development.  The notice says previous consultation notices were sent to the tribe as part of the State-Tribal consultation process but no responses were received.

This notice states the proposed action:

  • Was endorsed in the MPO Comprehensive Land Use Plan three years ago. 
  • Is programmed for funding in the State and MPO TIPs.
  • The design of the corridor will end in 16 months and construction will begin in 24 months.
  • The tribe’s response is due in 30 days.

The Tribal Planning Director immediately informed the Tribal President, the Tribal Council and the Tribal Elders.  All expressed alarm and disbelief. The proposed SR456 extension will cross over a sacred burial ground containing the remains of four generations of tribal descendents.  Tribal leadership will hold an emergency meeting in 24 hours.  It has asked you to attend and provide:

  • A summary of any previous consultation notices and the tribe’s response to them, and
  • A strategy for responding to this notice.

The purpose of Practice While You Learn! is to apply your learning to a hypothetical problem as you study the contents of this module.  You will find useful information and tools in your reading.  At certain points, you will be asked if the lesson you have just learned will help solve the problem described here.
One possible answer is also provided in Appendix B.

Updated: 12/19/2013
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