The Department of the Interior, the federal agency with the most trust and treaty responsibilities in Indian Country, is headquartered at 1849 C Street NW in Washington, D.C. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Department of the Interior kicks off tribal consultation sessions
Monday, March 8, 2021

The Department of the Interior is hosting the first in a series of tribal consultations mandated by President Joe Biden.

The first session takes place on Monday afternoon, from 2pm to 5pm Eastern. Tribal leaders and representatives of tribal governments from the Great Plains, Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions can participate by calling 888-843-9206 and using the passcode 9530360.

“Honoring our nation-to-nation relationship with tribes and upholding the trust and treaty responsibilities to them are paramount to fulfilling Interior’s mission,” Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes, the Tribal Governance Officer and Deputy Solicitor for Indian Affairs at Interior, said in a news release on Friday.

“Meaningful consultations ensure we center tribal voices as we address the health, economic, racial justice and climate crises — all of which disproportionately impact American Indians and Alaska Natives,”  said Bledsoe Downes, a citizen of the Winnebago Tribe.

Indianz.Com Video: Tribal consultation and strengthening nation-to-nation relationships

The sessions continue on Wednesday with a morning session for tribes in the Eastern, Eastern Oklahoma and Southern Plains region. The call in number is 877-601-4492 and the passcode is 3173996.

The Wednesday afternoon consultation is set for the Navajo, Southwest and Western regions. The call in number is 800-857-9872 and the passcode is 3906969.

The consultation week concludes on Friday with a session for tribal leaders from the Alaska, Northwest, and Pacific regions. The call in number is 877-601-4492 and the passcode is 3173996.

Written comments can also be submitted at They are due by 12pm Eastern on March 19.

On January 26, President Biden signed a memorandum on tribal consultation and strengthening nation-to-nation relationships. He directed all federal agencies to detail how they will implement executive order 13175, which was originally issued in 2000.

“Today, I’m directing the federal agency to reinvigorate the consultation process with Indian tribes,” Biden said in the State Dining Room at the White House.

“Respect for tribal sovereignty will be a cornerstone of our engaging with Native American communities,” Biden said before signing the memo.

The Department of the Interior is the federal agency with the most trust and treaty responsibilities to tribes and their citizens. It includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education and the recently-established Bureau of Trust Funds Administration, which is taking over most of the duties previously assigned to the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians.

Biden has nominated Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico), a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, to serve as Secretary of the Interior. If confirmed, she would be the first Native person to lead Interior and the first Native person in a presidential cabinet.

Haaland cleared her first hurdle in the confirmation process last Thursday. A final vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate is expected in the coming weeks.

Relevant Documents
Dear Tribal Leader Letter (February 11, 2021)
Framing Paper Improving Interior’s Consultation with Tribes: Development of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Plan for Improving Implementation of EO 13175, Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments (February 2021)

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