The U.S. Departments of the Interior, the Interior and Justice are holding one listening session in Phoenix and six regional field hearings with Indian Country’s 567 federally recognized tribes on improving tribal input on federal development of infrastructure projects, such as the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The opposition by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has caught national and international media attention, resulted in the listening session and field hearings.
The three federal agencies stated in a news release last week that on Sept. 9, they announced their intention to hold these consultation sessions after important issues were raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline specifically, and infrastructure-related decision-making more generally.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez stated in an August letter to Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault II that the Navajo Nation supports the Standing Rock Sioux.
The Sept. 9 announcement by the federal agencies to hold consultation sessions came after a federal judge denied a request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribes to halt construction of DAP also on Sept. 9.
Also on Sept. 9, the federal agencies also called on the Army Corp of Engineers to halt construction of DAP until it can determine whether it would need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding DAP under the National Environmental Policy Act or other federal laws.
According to last week’s news release, the consultations will focus on how the federal government can better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights, and will also explore with tribes whether new legislation should be proposed to Congress to alter the current statutory framework to promote those goals.
The listening session with tribes is scheduled for Oct. 11 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the National Congress of American Indians 73rd annual conference at the Phoenix Convention Center.
The tribal consultation field hearings are scheduled to being on Oct. 25 and end on Nov. 21 with a teleconference hearing.
Albuquerque is the site of one of the six hearings and it is scheduled for Oct. 27 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The hearing location has not been identified.
The teleconference hearing is set for Nov. 21 from 12:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, U.S. Eastern Standard Time. The call-in number is 888-790-1868 and the passcode is 8468468.
The federal agencies stated in a letter to the 567 tribes that they would be providing a framing paper with additional detail on the following two questions:
(1) How can federal agencies better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions, to protect tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights within the existing statutory framework?
(2) Should the federal agencies propose new legislation altering the statutory framework to promote these goals?