TITLE: Opposing the Proposed Reorganization of the Bureau of Indian Affairs without Meaningful Tribal Consultation
WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and
WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Interior (DOI) has proposed the reorganization of the regional office boundaries across all of the Department’s Bureaus, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, into 13 regions by watershed and ecosystem; and
WHEREAS, under the proposed reorganization, many of the current twelve (12) BIA regions would be broken up or drastically impacted; and
WHEREAS, despite claims from DOI that it will not move forward with reorganization without consultation with Indian Country, the BIA has already started reassignment of employees, as evidenced by the removal and reassignment of a number of Senior BIA Program officials; and
WHEREAS, upon investigation, the Inspector General concluded that DOI failed to put forth any coherent or consistent plan to support its past reassignment of employees with a lack of documentation surrounding the reassignments leading the Inspector General to opine that the reassignments may have not been in compliance with federal law; and
WHEREAS, it appears a full and complete assessment of the impacts of the proposed reorganization and resulting reassignments on DOI programs has not been conducted by the DOI despite the fact that these changes will result in systemic impacts to the manner and level of services provided by DOI to Tribes; and
WHEREAS, tribal consultation is a process that is meant to create effective collaboration with Tribes and the United States by building upon a government-to-government exchange of information, and defined by respect of tribal self-government, sovereignty, tribal treaty rights, and the trust responsibility whenever the federal government considers policies impacting tribal governments; and
WHEREAS, according to a Dear Tribal Leader Letter dated May 17, 2018, DOI is planning consultations throughout Indian Country during the months of June, July and August in an efforts to consider how BIA regions and functions should be included in DOI’s reorganization; and
WHEREAS, the restricted timeframe and lack of information available to Tribes regarding the reorganization will undoubtedly limit the effectiveness of these scheduled consultations, thereby stifling Tribal input and concern regarding DOI’s reorganization efforts.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) hereby calls on the Department of Interior to cease any further reassignments or reorganization of Department Bureaus without good faith and informed consultations throughout Indian Country; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that as a part of these consultations, DOI take action upon more pressing proposals put forward by Tribes to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the DOI, including but not limited to:
(1) The termination of the Office of Special Trustee, as provided for in the Indian Trust Asset Reform Act, P.L. 114-178. 130 Stat. 432 (2016), and subsequent transfer of its functions into the BIA; and
(2) The restructuring of tribal land management protocol to no longer allow BLM to manage tribal lands as public lands pursuant to NCAI Resolution #REN-13-077; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.
The foregoing resolution was adopted by the General Assembly at the 2018 Midyear Session of the National Congress of American Indians, held at the Marriott Kansas City Downtown, June 3-6, 2018, with a quorum present.
Jefferson Keel, President
Juana Majel Dixon, Recording Secretary