Building on last year’s Stafford Act amendment making tribes eligible to apply directly for federal disaster aid, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has upped its engagement with tribes even further.
Calling it a “new phase of engagement and collaboration with American Indian and Alaskan Native tribes,” FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate announced the establishment of a new Tribal Consultation Policy to foster “regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials on Agency actions that have tribal implications,” as well as emphasizing the importance of consultation when it comes to Indian country.
“This policy strengthens FEMA’s effort to support the emergency management needs of Indian Country,” Fugate said in a statement. “Providing direct Federal assistance to Tribal governments has been a top priority for FEMA, and this policy will ensure that Tribal leaders continue to have a voice in shaping how FEMA partners with communities before, during and after disasters.”
In January 2013, President Barack Obama signed the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013, which included changes to the Stafford Act that allow tribes to exercise their sovereignty and request aid instead of doing so through state governments.
Since then several tribes have requested and been granted such aid after disasters.
FEMA is the second major agency in as many months to establish policies specifically geared toward enhancing communication and consultation with tribes. In July the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized an environmental justice policy to support American Indians, as well as giving out grants for environmental health research on issues specifically affecting tribes.