III: What is Tribal Consultation?
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, tribal
“meaningful and timely discussion in an understandable
language during the development of regulations, policies, programs, plans…that
significantly or uniquely affect federally recognized American Indian and
Alaska Native tribes and their governments.”
Additional Federal Laws
- Title 23 USC - Highways - for impacts on tribal properties by Federal-aid projects.
- National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) - for environmental impacts on tribal properties.
- National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) - for impacts on tribal historic, religious and cultural properties.
process is still relatively new but continually strengthened by presidential orders
and Federal laws. One such law is the Safe,
Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Act: A Legacy for Users enacted in 2005. Known as SAFETEA-LU,
this law governs how transportation is administered in the United States and affirms the importance
of tribal consultation in the transportation planning process.
SAFETEA-LU may be accessed at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/safetealu/legis.htm. Additional Federal laws that mandate
tribal consultation are listed in the text box.
It is important to note that the Federal consultation process
takes precedence over a State, regional or metropolitan tribal consultation process. The relationship between governments in
tribal consultation is illustrated in Figure 3.
Given the increase in collaboration and
partnership on transportation issues, however, the number of State and metropolitan
government-to-government laws, executive orders, policies and programs are also
increasing. Examples of this are provided in Section IV of this module.
3: Relationship between Federal
and State Governments, Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Tribal
Governments in Tribal Consultation
Guiding Principles in Tribal Consultation
Tribal consultations among governments can be
contentious, complicated and span many years. It is made easier when the
parties have a healthy and respectful working relationship before, during and
after the consultation. According
to a recent national research study, the
most successful tribal consultations are governed by three principles: communication, coordination and cooperation.These principles are defined here.
Execution of these
principles will strengthen the interpersonal relationships, knowledge and trust
among the consulting parties.
||The process for the exchange
of information, data or knowledge through speech, writing and visual tools.
||The process for defining and
organizing activities, events and tasks for achieving a mutual goal.
||The process in which the
consulting parties agree to work together in planning, programming and
[Before, during and after
- Presentations: Oral presentations, with aids such as hand outs and PowerPoint slides, educate on issues of common interest and
concern to the parties. They are effective when followed with questions and
Collection: The collection and organization of
project data aids information sharing and exchanges.
and Handbooks: These documents are from neutral
organizations such as the American Indian Research and Policy Institute and the
American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials. They facilitate
understanding of complex cultural and technical issues.
and Bulletins: These tools keep the consulting
parties up-to-date on project activities and progress.
and Response Forms: Mailings with response forms
(tear off or attachments) solicit immediate responses from the consulting participants
on how the effort is progressing.
- Tribal Monitor: This neutral and knowledgeable third party monitor
may be requested by the parties to attend meetings and participate in consultation
- Training: Either party may sponsor training to heighten group
knowledge on a range of topics.
Summits and Workshops: Regular meetings between
the consulting parties have a stabilizing effect. Summits and workshops help to
identify the next steps in the consultation process.
Consortium: A consortium may represent several
tribes from a specific region. The contributions of these entities broaden and
diversify the resources and knowledge of the parties engaged in consultation.
Liaisons and Coordinators: Tribal liaisons and
coordinators are the experts for their agencies. They educate on issues and coordinate
the exchange of critical information among the consulting parties.
- Formal Agreements: Consultation agreements may be forged
at the program level and project level. They memorialize the terms and
conditions agreed to by the consulting parties.
- Regional and State Conferences: Regional and State
conferences are forums for networking and the exchange of views and
- Planning Organizations:Planning organizations are
entities charged with developing the Long Range Transportation Plan and the
Transportation Improvement Program. They have the potential to encourage
cooperation among consulting governments and may commit their resources to the
- Regional Transit Districts and Coalitions: A regional transit
district or coalition may have multiple tribal memberships within their service
area. Their use and involvement strengthens already established relationships.
- Resource Sharing: Consulting partners may agree to pool
and share resources for a specific transportation project or activity.
Practice While You Learn!
In addressing the hypothetical problem on page 3, ask yourself:
- Will any of the three tribal consultation principles and their resulting activities help solve the problem?
- Which principles and activities would work best?Why?