The U.S. Department of the Interior and 16 other federal agencies committed Monday to honoring Native American tribal rights throughout government policy-making and regulatory actions.
President Joe Biden made the announcement at a White House Tribal Nations Summit. The initiative will require agencies with diverse portfolios to coordinate their efforts to protect agreements reached while the country was being explored in the 1800s, and more recent pacts.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said, “Tribal Nations entered into treaties, in part, to protect their way of life and inherent rights to natural resources of cultural, economic, and subsistence importance.”
“It is our obligation to honor these treaty rights and incorporate tribal interests into our decision-making, so that tribal rights regarding everything from hunting and fishing to health care and education are protected,” she added.
The memorandum of understanding among the 17 agencies calls for the creation of a searchable database of all treaties between the U.S. government and tribal nations, to help the government comply with treaty obligations.
The agreement also calls for improving consideration of treaty rights in government decision-making and identifying tribal rights that might be adversely affected by government regulations.
The Interior Department said that many of the tribal treaties in the U.S. protect access to natural resources, such as fisheries, but also protect the resource itself from being degraded.