The FirstNet Authority, as an independent federal authority of the United States Government, is required to consult under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and other historic preservation laws on a government-to-government basis with federally recognized Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations (NHOs). This requirement to consult arises out of the Federal Government’s unique legal relationship with federally recognized Indian tribes and NHOs, as established in the Constitution, treaties, federal statutes and their related regulations, and federal court decisions. These relationships extend to the Federal Government’s historic preservation activities and mandate that federal consultation with federally recognized Indian tribes and NHOs be meaningful, in good faith, and entered into on a government-to-government basis.
Based on Section 106 of NHPA requirements and other authorities, an agency must (1) ensure that consultation recognizes tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationship that exists between the Federal Government and federally recognized Indian tribes and NHOs; and (2) provide a federally recognized Indian tribe or NHO a reasonable opportunity to (i) identify its concerns about historic properties, (ii) advise on the identification and evaluation of historic properties, including those of traditional religious and cultural importance to them, (iii) articulate its views on the undertaking’s effects on such properties; and (iv) participate in the resolution of adverse effects.
Thus, federal agency consultation with federally recognized Indian tribes and NHOs should commence early in the agency planning process, to identify and discuss relevant preservation issues and plan how to address concerns about confidentiality of information obtained during the consultation process. Additionally, federal agencies should recognize that historic properties of religious and cultural significance to a federally recognized Indian tribe or NHO may be located on ancestral (also referred to as aboriginal) homelands, or on officially ceded lands (lands that were ceded to the United States Government by the tribe via treaty) that are now located far away from lands currently occupied by the Indian tribe or NHO. To account for this fact, the FirstNet Authority will make a reasonable and good-faith effort to identify federally recognized Indian tribes or NHOs that may attach religious and cultural significance to historic properties that may be affected by the undertaking, even if the Indian tribes or NHOs are now located a great distance away from such properties and undertakings.
In addition to its obligations under NHPA, the FirstNet Authority is committed to “regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials in the development of Federal policies that have tribal implications, to strengthen the United States government-to-government relationships with Indian tribes, and to reduce the imposition of unfunded mandates upon Indian tribes” consistent with Executive Order No. 13175 (65 Fed. Reg. 67249), “Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments”. The FirstNet Authority has two regional tribal government liaisons to work and consult with Indian tribes and has established a Tribal Working Group to provide advice on Indian Country outreach, education, and inclusive engagement strategies and inform and involve Indian tribes as it relates to their use of the FirstNet network.