Working Effectively with Tribal Governments

Cultural Orientation and Working with Tribal Governments

Federal representatives and tribal representatives shaking hands

General Tips for Working More Effectively with Tribal Governments

The following tips will help you as you interact with tribal representatives:

Take time to learn about the tribe's history and culture, tribal customs, and preferences. In addition, it is essential that federal employees understand the political environment in which the tribal government operates. For example, find out if there are tribal councils, business committees, or corporations. Learn the time frames in which these decision-making bodies operate, such as the frequency of council meetings.

Always remember that you are a guest of the tribe that you are visiting. Respect their customs and laws. If you are invited to participate in an event or ceremony, watch respectfully, and remember that some events or ceremonies are for tribal members only.

Consider opportunities for collaboration with other departments or other federal agencies that may benefit the tribe with whom you are working.

Become familiar with the efforts and outcomes of your agency's prior work with the tribe.

Ensure that tribal leadership or their designees are involved early in discussing projects, plans, or issues that may affect tribal concerns. Communicate early and often.

If your agency has an established protocol agreement with a tribe, make sure that you follow it. If there is no such protocol in place, talk to tribal leaders about whether it would be beneficial to establish one.

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