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Rahall Introduces Bill Upholding Federal Trust Relationship with Indian Country

Resources Committee 3/31/08

CONTACT: Allyson Groff or Blake Androff, 202-226-9019

Washington, D.C. - Working to address one of the top concerns aired by Indian tribes before the House Natural Resources Committee, Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), introduced legislation Thursday mandating that the Administration consult with tribes on policies that directly affect their lives.

"Normally, I would be pleased to offer a bill that strengthens the government-to-government relationship between the United States and Indian country. But today, I am disappointed that such legislation is even necessary," Rahall said.

"When the federal government interacts with Indian tribes, it does so on a government-to-government basis. This, combined with the history of treatment of Indian tribes by the United States, imposes a moral obligation on the federal government to consult with Indian tribes before enacting policies that have a direct effect on them. Yet, this Administration has shown a clear disregard for that legal, political and moral responsibility," he continued. The Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments Act (H.R.5608) reaffirms and puts into statute much of Presidential Executive Order 13175, signed in November 2000 by President Clinton, which requires consultation with Indian tribes on a government-to-government basis - an order that the current Administration has flagrantly ignored. A January 2008 Interior Department Guidance Memo that was issued without any tribal input, and that changed federal policy toward Indian tribes, is the latest example of this Administration's disregard for its responsibilities.

"Far too often, the Bush Administration has taken and continues to take actions that have serious and negative consequences on Indian country, without any consultation at all from the tribes themselves. Clearly, this should not be the case," Rahall said. The Rahall legislation will require the Department of the Interior, the Indian Health Service, and the National Indian Gaming Commission to enter into a true consultation process with Indian tribes and Alaska Natives before new policies or actions are taken that will directly affect them. "In the end, this bill will ensure that the United States, as a government, sits at the table with Indian tribal governments when decisions are to be made affecting the lives of our First Americans. We cannot afford to repeat the mistaken policies of the past where the federal government makes decisions and policies in a vacuum," Rahall said.

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