Opposing the Department of Interior Reorganization Plan as Presented

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Resolution #DEN-18-022

TITLE: Opposing the Department of Interior Reorganization Plan as Presented

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, Indian tribes are sovereigns that pre-date the United States, with inherent and treaty protected rights to self-government and to our Indian lands; and

WHEREAS, the Constitution of the United States, through the Treaty, Commerce, and Apportionment Clauses and the 14th Amendment, recognizes the sovereign status of Indian tribes as Native nations established prior to the United States; and

WHEREAS, Indian tribes entered into treaties with the United States, which are enshrined in the Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land, and which were intended to preserve our original homelands, protect our people and preserve our original inherent inalienable rights to sovereignty and self-government; and

WHEREAS, Congress delegated to the President of the United States and Department of the Interior (DOI) important powers to work with Indian tribes, and recognized the right of tribes to negotiate with the federal government on a government to government basis; and

WHEREAS, DOI manages more than 400 million acres of non-tribal federal lands, a large portion of which are subject to treaties, federal court decisions, Executive Orders and federal laws affirming the retained right of Indian tribes to hunt fish, gather and access sacred places and exercise Native religions on off-reservation federal lands; and

WHEREAS, DOI has proposed a plan to reorganize its regions along rivers, basins, watersheds and state lines and has failed to recognize historic regions and relations among Indian tribes by consulting on whether the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) regions should be included in this plan; and

WHEREAS, DOI scheduled listening sessions and tribal consultations throughout the spring and summer of 2018 on how to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of services provided to tribes, and how the BIA functions and services should fit into the overall DOI reorganization plans; and

WHEREAS, DOI provided few details regarding the “Reorganization” other than a proposed map of the proposed Unified Regions; the proposed consolidation of DOI field offices under a new Interior Regional Director position; and the overall intent to improve decision making with respect to the permitting, conservation and recreation functions of DOI; and

WHEREAS, DOI’s non-Indian Affairs bureaus and offices provide important services to Indian tribes, often help facilitate BIA functions, and share in carrying out the trust responsibility to Indian tribes.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) opposes the Department of the Interior Reorganization plan in its current form and calls upon the Administration, the Secretary and Congress to maintain the current BIA/BIE Regions, and to ensure thorough government-to-government consultation with Indian tribes in compliance with requisite statutes and DOI’s consultation policy prior to any changes in DOI that affect how services are provided to Indian tribes; how decisions are made that impact tribes; or how the trust responsibility is carried out throughout the entire DOI; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI calls upon the Secretary of the Interior to stop DOI’s Reorganization implementation to provide an opportunity for thorough consultation with Indian tribes, and in order to reach an agreement between DOI and Indian tribes concerning the following principles:

• Honoring tribal treaty rights, including our rights to sovereignty, self-determination, and self-government;
• The nation-to-nation relationship with the United States;
• The sanctity of Indian trust lands and territory;
• The co-management or cooperative management of lands and natural resources of significance to Indian tribes;
• Rights to economic freedom and liberty;
• Federal trust responsibility support for inherent rights to sovereignty, self-determination, and self-government; and
• The need to ensure that any DOI reorganization improves how DOI, BIA, BIE, BLM, Reclamation, the National Parks Service, and other non-Indian Affairs bureaus and offices carry out the trust responsibility and honor the aforementioned principles; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI calls upon the Secretary to establish the position of Deputy Secretary for Indian Affairs within DOI, to re-establish the Office of American Indian trust within the Office of the Secretary, and to establish a Secretarial Tribal Advisory Committee to ensure that tribal interests are appropriately included in DOI–wide initiatives such as, but not limited to, DOI’s reorganization efforts; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI opposes the relocation, division, or change of any existing BIA/BIE regional office or agency without the free, prior, and informed consent of all of the tribes who are served by those offices or that may be affected thereby; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI calls upon the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Natives, and the House Subcommittee on Appropriations, to hold field hearings on the proposed DOI reorganization, as well as any proposed BIA restructuring, in Indian Country; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI hereby calls upon other Indian tribes and regional inter-tribal organizations to establish a DOI Reorganization Task Force and to hold an initial tribal leadership meeting to address the key principles that should be advanced as part of the Reorganization; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI calls upon the House and Senate Interior Appropriators to stop funding for DOI’s Reorganization unless and until a nation-to-nation agreement has been reached between Indian tribes and the United States concerning the inclusion of BIA functions and regions in DOI’s Reorganization plans, including how Indian Affairs functions carried out in coordination with non-Indian Affairs bureaus and offices are integrated into the overall DOI reorganization; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI calls upon the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to exercise their oversight authority and request a detailed DOI Reorganization plan, which would include a cost-benefit analysis and an analysis on its potential effects on Indian tribes, from Secretary Zinke; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI calls upon the United States, by and through all of its Executive Branch Departments, Agencies and Bureaus to act in accordance with the federal trust responsibility to protect and promote the interests of Indian tribes which must be prioritized as matters of paramount importance in DOI’s Reorganization plans; 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 Annual Session of the National Congress of American Indians, held at the Hyatt Regency in Denver, Colorado October 21-26, 2018, with a quorum present.

Jefferson Keel, President

Juana Majel Dixon, Recording Secretary