WASHINGTON — President Clinton ordered federal agencies Monday to work more closely with American Indian tribal governments and give tribes "the maximum administrative discretion possible" in enforcing federal law and regulations.
The order also prohibits federal agencies from proposing legislation that would hurt tribal governments, and requires agencies to designate an official to handle relations with tribes. Agencies would have to consult with tribes early in the rule-making process and detail the financial effect of agency decisions on tribal governments.
"We must continue to engage in partnership, so that the first Americans can reach their full potential," Clinton said in a statement. "We must respect Native Americans’ rights to choose for themselves their own way of life on their own lands according to their honored cultures and traditions."
Tribal leaders welcomed the order, which strengthens a 1998 order requiring agencies to consult with tribes on matters affecting the them.
"Tribes have learned how to fight and protect what we have gained," said Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe in Washington state and vice president of the National Congress of American Indians.
"We’ve become smarter about how to rattle the cage of the political decision makers and get them to focus on what is right, no matter what their political agenda is," Allen said.
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