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Tribal Consultation Gets Results

Families, Native Americans

HHS leaders hear Tribal leaders discuss issues in the 2012 Tribal Consultation.A year and a half ago, at the 2011 ACF Tribal Consultation, Acting Assistant Secretary George Sheldon signed the ACF Tribal Consultation Policy in front of several Tribal leaders and Tribal representatives from 42 American Indian Tribes. This policy was the culmination of an effort that began in August 2010 in partnership with Tribal leaders and federal staff to craft an agency specific policy.

The ACF policy supplements the HHS Tribal Consultation Policy, which provides the basic guidelines for HHS to engage in consultation with Indian tribes.  ACF is to consult with federally recognized Tribal governments on legislative proposals, new rule adoptions, or other policy changes that either ACF or a tribe(s) determines may significantly affect one or more Indian Tribes.

At a minimum, ACF will hold a Tribal consultation session once a year to address any of the above issues or other issues/concerns of Indian Tribes.  Also, annually ACF participates in the HHS Annual Tribal Budget Consultation Session held in Washington, D.C., in early March. 

ACF has 80 programs listed in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance; 46 of these identify Tribes and Tribal organizations as eligible to apply for funding opportunities.  Even for those programs or grants that do not directly fund Tribes, it is important that we are reaching out to Tribes to get their input on how ACF programs are working in their communities. As ACF prepares for this year’s regional, national and agency specific Tribal consultations it is fitting to recall the reason for our efforts.

History has shown that failure to include the voices of Tribal officials in formulating policy affecting their communities has all too often led to undesirable and, at times, devastating and tragic results. By contrast, meaningful dialogue between federal officials and Tribal officials has greatly improved federal policy toward Indian Tribes. Consultation is a critical ingredient of a sound and productive Federal-Tribal relationship.

--From President Obama’s November 2009 Memorandum to Executive Departments and Agencies on Tribal Consultation.

ACF is determined to engage in a meaningful dialog with Tribes that results in better policy.  Two requests that were made at the 2012 ACF Tribal Consultation that we are currently considering are the expansion of self governance beyond Indian Health Service and a request for an ACF Tribal Advisory Group.

Tribes were also interested in more opportunities to foster collaboration in early childhood education programs and ACF responded with the Tribal Early Learning Initiative, which provided supplemental funding to four Tribes to do just that.   Not all issues or concerns are within ACF’s ability to address without Congressional action, but the agency is listening and is willing to work with Tribes for positive improvement in the lives of children and families.

Lillian Sparks, a Lakota woman of the Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes, is the Commissioner of the Administration of Native Americans.  Sparks was confirmed by the United States Senate as the Commissioner on March 3, 2010, and was sworn in on March 5, 2010.  She has devoted her career to supporting the educational pursuits of Native American students, protecting the rights of indigenous people, and empowering tribal communities. Sparks currently leads the Tribal Consultation efforts on behalf of the Administration for Children and Families.

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