The Bureau of Indian Affairs signed an agreement Dec. 13 with leaders of 29 tribal nations to foster better communication and understanding between the agency and the tribes it regulates. The government-to-government consultation policy
requires the BIA to consult with Indian tribes as they craft federal policies and regulations that affect the tribal nations. The consultation policy comes just three months after BIA chief Kevin Gover apologized for the bureau's treatment of Native Americans over the last 176 years and promised changes at the BIA. "The consultation guidelines will assist in reducing the hard feelings that sometimes arise during the process of developing regulations," said Sharon Blackwell, the BIA's deputy commissioner for Indian Affairs. "It's good to have such guidelines in place to assist us in our efforts to makes sure the tribes are involved as equal partners." The policy was crafted by tribal leaders from 12 BIA regions, who then sent it to BIA officials for input. The policy includes specifics on how the consultation process is designed, the length of the process and how work assignments will be allocated. The policy also lays out a procedure for monitoring the BIA's performance. "It was a true federal-tribal partnership," said Loretta Tuell, who served as co-chair of the workgroup. Tuell is director of the Office of American Indian Trust. "Everyone wanted to make sure that all perspectives were expressed in the agreement."