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Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Shares Announcement of Federal Report on Tribal Consultation

May 9, 2019

AKWESASNE — On Wednesday, Onerahtohkó:wa/May 1, 2019; members of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council (SRMT) participated in a press conference at the U.S. Capital to announce the release of a new U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, entitled Tribal Consultation: Additional Federal Actions Needed for Infrastructure Projects. Attending at the invitation of Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA) and Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ); Tribal Chiefs Beverly Cook, Eric Thompson and Michael Conners spoke on the first-ever comprehensive review of 21 federal agencies’ tribal consultation processes.

“We are grateful for the work of both Congressmen and pleased to share what we think constitutes recognition of the need for more meaningful tribal consultation through the release of this new report,” said Tribal Chief Beverly Cook during the press conference. Chief Cook added, “The fight for meaningful consultation is beginning to show some positive results, but there is still more work that our Tribal Council knows must be done. We cannot stress enough how important it is to finally have advocates in Congress who actually listen and take action on what we have been trying to convey.”

For the past several years, members of the Tribal Council have been reaching out to federal officials and agencies to voice Akwesasne’s environmental concerns and issues pertaining to consultation. These efforts resulted in the convening of a roundtable discussion with tribal leaders on Ohiarí:ha/June 14, 2016, which included the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe. These discussions resulted in Congressman Ruiz and twenty-four members of Congress requesting an investigative report from the GAO on federal policies intended to protect tribal communities.

“The historical implications of the federal government’s failure to fulfill its trust responsibility to tribal communities has been environmentally catastrophic,” shared Tribal Chief Eric Thompson. Chief Thompson noted, “For years, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe has been raising serious concerns with superfund mitigation efforts at the former-General Motors site located immediately upriver and upwind from the Akwesasne community. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sought the Tribe’s input, it did not take our recommendation for the complete removal of all contaminated materials into consideration for the sites cleanup.”

In late 2017, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe submitted a 168-page testimony to the GAO that outlined the shortcomings of the federal government’s consultation process. Throughout 2018, the Tribe continued to work with the GAO in answering additional questions, reviewing the Tribe’s contributions to the report, and meeting with members of Congress to help bring the report’s findings to light. To ensure the GAO had adequate information to conduct their investigation, the Tribe encouraged other tribes negatively impacted by federal infrastructure projects or superfund sites, without adequate consultation, to submit testimony.

In February 2018, the GAO released the first of their two reports, entitled Superfund: EPA Should Improve the Reliability of Data on National Priorities List Sites Affecting Indian Tribes. The report acknowledges that the EPA lacks reliable data on sites that affect tribal lands and lacks required documentation for its consultation with tribes. In addition, the report provides four recommendations that includes the Director of EPA’s Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation to develop a regular review process and clarify guidance on tribal consultation. A copy of the report can viewed at the following link: GAO-19-123.

Last week, GAO released its second report, entitled Tribal Consultation: Additional Federal Actions Needed for Infrastructure Project, which offers an expanded analysis of the duty of federal agencies to consult with tribal governments on federal infrastructure projects. A copy of the report, can viewed at the following link: GAO-19-22.

“Tribes have the inherent right to self-determination and the right to have a say in decisions that impact our community’s lands and health,” said Tribal Chief Michael Conners. Chief Conners added, “On behalf of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, we extend our appreciation to Congressman Raul Ruiz and Congressman Raul Grijalva for the opportunity to contribute to the reports and towards improving the federal government’s relationship with Indian Country.”

To view the press conference on the release of the new GAO report on tribal consultation on federal infrastructure projects, please Click Here.

PHOTO CAPTION: The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council (SRMT) joined Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA), Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and other tribal representatives at a press conference that announced the release of the U.S. Governmental Accountability Office’s report that reviewed the tribal consultation processes of 21 federal agencies. Attending the event held on May 1, 2019 at the U.S. Capital were (from left): Congressman Ruiz, First Vice-President of the National Congress of American Indians and Sault Ste. Tribe of Chippewa Indians Chairman Aaron Payment, Mescalero Apache Tribe Natural Resources Director Thora Padilla, SRMT Tribal Chief Beverly Cook, SRMT Tribal Chief Eric Thompson and SRMT Tribal Chief Michael Conners.

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The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is the duly elected and federally recognized government of the Saint Regis Mohawk People.