As Soldiers and all Americans celebrate Native American Heritage Month, the Army has consulted with leaders of federally recognized tribes to provide new policy for Army-tribal relations.
Secretary of the Army John McHugh signed a new policy for the Army, setting that work into motion. The "American Indian and Alaska Native Policy" was signed Oct. 24. The Army's intent, according to the policy is to "build stable and enduring government-to-government relations with federally recognized tribes in a manner that sustains the Army mission and minimizes effects on protected tribal resources."
It continues: "The Army will communicate with federally recognized tribes on a government-to-government basis in recognition of their sovereignty."
"The policy establishes Army-wide guidance for Soldiers at all levels, as well as Army civilians, on communicating with and understanding the concerns of tribes, including their rights, lands and resources," said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy & Environment.
Hammack, whose office has been working with McHugh to draft and implement the policy, is scheduled to speak in a policy-signing ceremony at the Pentagon, Nov. 28, from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Guests will include Les Lobaugh, a Navajo attorney, whose work included drafting the Endangered Species Act, followed by the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, which in turn led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Also attending and performing will be Joanne Shenandoah, Ph.D., an Iroquois vocalist and Grammy Award winner.
The Secretary of the Army has now established the Department of the Army's first-ever formal policy specifically addressing Army interaction with federally recognized Indian tribes, according to David Guldenzopf, Ph.D., Hammack's director for Environmental Quality and Native American Policy. "The next step is to prepare official Army guidance for the policy that will provide installations operational details on how to execute the policy."
Guldenzopf said talks with tribal leaders will occur to establish specifics for the guidance and it will be published by November 2013.
This is very significant, he said, because the Army has almost 15 million acres of land on which there are a number of Native-American Heritage Sites with archaeological as well as sacred significance. Medicine Bluff, located on Fort Sill, Okla., is one example.
A number of federal laws already require the Army to consult with tribes and provide them with access to sites, he said. "What was lacking before was an overarching policy that institutionalizes these policy principles."
He added, "The Army wants to be good stewards of these sites, as well as with the rest of the environment."