Opinion

Morgan Rodman: Federal agencies work to protect treaty rights






President Barack Obama at the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C, on September 26, 2016. Photo by Tami Heilemann / U.S. Department of the Interior

Anthony “Morgan” Rodman, the executive director of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, discusses a new memorandum of understanding to address tribal treaty rights:
Under the Constitution, treaties with tribal nations are part of the supreme law of the land, establishing unique sets of rights, benefits and conditions for the treaty-making tribes who agreed to cede millions of acres of their homelands to the United States, in return for recognition of property rights in land and resources as well as federal protections.

Through treaty-making, Indian tribes granted these lands and other natural resources to the United States, while retaining all rights not expressly granted. These retained rights cover a wide variety of subjects, including the right to hunt, fish, and gather resources – including access to traditional plants and animals – both on land the tribes ceded, as well as on land they retained.

Understanding these authorities and responsibilities, federal agencies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) pledging our best efforts to identify and take greater recognition of tribal treaty rights and similar tribal rights regarding natural resources during our decision-making processes. As the MOU makes clear, tribal treaty rights have the same legal force and effect as federal statutes and they should be integrated into and given the fullest consideration throughout our collective work.

The federal agencies party to the MOU will establish a working group to enhance interagency coordination and collaboration; consult with tribal nations as appropriate in developing and implementing our decision-making efforts; and share best practices, tools and resources to identify, understand and analyze tribal treaty rights that can be affected by federal actions. We will consider these treaty rights as part of our tribal consultation policies and procedures.

Read More:
Anthony “Morgan” Rodman: Respecting Tribal Treaty Rights Helps Preserve Indian Country Progress (DOI Blog 10/20)

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