Federally recognized Indian tribes are sovereign nations exercising government-to-government relations with the United States. The federal government therefore has a unique and distinctive relationship with federally recognized Indian tribes. This relationship as defined by treaties, statutes, executive orders, judicial decisions and agreements. Treaties are negotiated contracts made pursuant to the Constitution of the United States and are considered the “supreme law of the land.” They take precedence over any conflicting state laws because of the supremacy clause of the Constitution (Article 6, Clause 2). Treaty rights are not gifts or grants from the United States, but are bargained-for concessions. These rights are grants-of-rights from the tribes, rather than to the tribes. The reciprocal obligations assumed by the federal government and Indian tribes constitute the chief source of present-day federal Indian law. Federal “trust responsibility” involves the legal responsibilities and obligations of the United States toward Indian tribes and the application of fiduciary standards of due care with respect to Indian lands, tribal trust resources and the exercise of tribal treaty rights. The BLM, as a bureau of the Department of the Interior, has a mandated obligation to ensure that the federal Indian trust responsibility is fulfilled.
Secretary Salazar discusses Tribal Consultation Policy with Robert Tippiconnie of the Comanche Tribe, after signing a Secretarial Order implementing the policy. Tami A. Heilemann-Office of Communications
Where the public lands are concerned, these relations usually take the form of legally required consultation, and in most day-to-day consultations with tribes, the BLM field office manager serves as the official represen tative of the United States.
Tribal consultation in public land activities has four essential elements:
Identifying appropriate tribal governing bodies and individuals from whom to seek input.
Conferring with appropriate tribal officials and/or individuals and asking for their views regarding land use proposals or other pending BLM actions that might affect traditional tribal activities, practices, or beliefs relating to particular locations on public lands.
Treating tribal information as a necessary factor in defining the range of acceptable public-land management options.
Creating and maintaining a permanent record to show how tribal information was obtained and used in the BLM's decision making process.