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The Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), Office of Environmental Justice and Office of Tribal Justice helped convene a Federal/Tribal Regional Summit in Minnesota’s Twin Cities on Sept. 26 and 27; the event was hosted by the Regional Solicitor’s office of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Summit participants also included Justice Department personnel from the Community Relations Service and Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys as well as Tribal nations representatives from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa and South Dakota.
Assistant Attorney General (AAG) Todd Kim of ENRD challenged the group to identify new ways to work together to support Tribal sovereignty and ensure the preservation of sustainable Tribal homelands.
“The United States supports Tribal sovereignty and self-determination and has a unique government-to-government relationship with Tribes,” he said. “And, like the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes, treaties are the supreme law of the land. This administration is fully committed to using all available authorities to protect Tribal treaty and reserved rights and to supporting Tribal efforts to strengthen Tribes’ resilience in responding to climate impacts that include erosion, drought, wildfires and rising sea levels.”
AAG Kim pointed to last week’s historic settlement of litigation by Tribes over management of the Columbia River System. AAG Kim noted that all parties hope the settlement “will further a comprehensive solution to restore salmon populations in the Basin while also advancing clean energy goals.”
The Summit featured an address by Midwest Regional Administrator Debra Shore of the Environmental Protection Agency as well as short presentations and in-depth discussions on environmental justice; Tribal treaty rights related to hunting, fishing and gathering of natural resources; Tribal jurisdictional issues; trespass on Tribal lands; identification and enforcement of environmental crimes; and climate adaptation strategies. Additional sessions focused on best practices for working with federal agencies on ensuring protection of Tribal rights and resources.
This meeting was the second of three Regional Summits planned for 2023, and follows national conversations with Tribes held in Washington, D.C., in November 2022 and Columbia, South Carolina, earlier this year. The Summits are intended to deliver on the promise in the Department’s Comprehensive Environmental Justice Enforcement Strategy to work with Tribal governments and other federal agencies to “address and incorporate Tribal concerns into the Department’s enforcement work.”
The next Regional Federal/Tribal Summit is scheduled for Oct. 15-17 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.