Dear USET/USET SPF Family,
We write to make you aware of recent developments regarding H.R. 3587, the Requirements, Expectations, and Standard Procedures for Effective Consultation with Tribes (RESPECT) Act. The RESPECT Act would codify Tribal consultation requirements for all federal agencies, including independent agencies. As we have previously indicated, USET SPF strongly supports the spirit and intent of the RESPECT Act, including its application to independent agencies.
However, we are strongly opposed to any version of the bill that confers inappropriate status on Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs). A recent version that USET SPF has obtained includes a provision providing for 'tri-lateral' negotiations between the federal government, Alaska Native Tribal Nations, and ANCs. This does not address the concerns that USET SPF and our partners have previously raised with House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva.
While the bill does take steps to reinforce that for-profit ANCs are not Tribal governments, it also places them on equal footing during the consultation process. While we do not dispute that ANCs play a critical role that is also complimentary to Tribal Nations that reside within the borders of Alaska, we feel as though this direct inclusion undermines the government-to-government relationship between Tribal Nations and the United States and dilutes consultation as a diplomatic tool.
In addition, Chairman Grijalva recently transmitted a "Dear Tribal Leader" letter calling for the passage of the revised RESPECT Act and mischaracterizing partner concerns and involvement. We include this because we are not sure that it has been distributed to all Tribal Nations or leaders.
Today, we became aware of the Chairman's intent to mark-up the bill at the House Natural Resources Committee as soon as next week. The RESPECT Act must not move forward until it upholds the Nation-to-Nation, diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Tribal Nations.
USET SPF and our partners intend to register our continued opposition to the above version of the RESPECT Act this week via an additional joint org letter and individual outreach. In the meantime, we strongly encourage our member Tribal Nations to reach out to your Members of Congress and those serving on the House Natural Resources Committee to ensure that the RESPECT Act does not receive further action until the concerns of Tribal Nations are addressed.
While we understand the Chairman's concerns regarding remaining time to pass this legislation in the final weeks of this Congress, our greater concern is the much longer lasting damage with which Tribal Nations will need to contend if this legislation is not drafted in a manner that best reflects the sacred Nation-to-Nation, sovereign-to-sovereign diplomatic relationship between Tribal Nations and the United States.
As President Biden stated yesterday at the White House Tribal Nations Summit:
"Today, I signed a new presidential memorandum that improves consultation between the federal government and Tribal nations based on key principles. Consultation has to be a two-way, nation-to-nation exchange of information. ...Everyone's entitled to be treated with respect and dignity. The dignity that comes from just being who we are. This is especially true for tribal nations, to whom the United States owes a solemn trust and treaty obligations that we haven't always lived up to. When I talk about respect, here's what I mean by respect. Respect for tribes as nations and treaties as law."
Any bill codifying Tribal consultation must respect us as Tribal Nations. In its current form, the RESPECT Act fails to do so.
For more information, please contact Liz Malerba, USET SPF Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.