Thursday, 12 March 2020
Investing in Tribal Relations: A Week in Washington, DC
By Aubrey McCormick
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Executive Council Winter Session was held in Washington, DC on February 10-13th to focus on the future of American Indian and Alaska Native policy. I had the honor of participating in many key events as part of a field trip planned by Portland State University’s Professional Certificate in Tribal Relations program. I’m participating in the program to deepen FSC’s engagement with tribes and build our capacity to support Tribal Certificate Holders.
During the week, our cohort attended the NCAI conference and general assembly. The opening speech was given at the 2020 State of Indian Nations Address, by NCAI President Dawn Sharp. We visited the Native American Rights Fund, tribal attorneys and lobbyists, US Department of Agriculture, US Forestry Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Self Governance, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Senate Appropriations Committee, and spent a day on Capitol Hill meeting with both Democratic and Republican senators who boldly represent tribes. These meetings provided insight into how the federal government works with tribes and also the advocacy needed to make sure their concerns are being addressed. Tribal leaders from all over the country were in attendance to meet with their Congressional delegations and lobby on behalf of their needs.
The event themes were building respect and trust, and facilitating clear communication when addressing important topics. The meeting with the Office of Self Governance really stood out because conversations focused on enabling Tribes to determine internal priorities, redesign programs and reallocate resources to more efficiently meet their communities’ needs, establishing greater social, economic, and political self-sufficiency among the tribes. For FSC, creating and enhancing relationships in Indian Country is a top priority, as we currently have five tribal forest management certificate holders: the Skokomish Tribe of Washington State, Coquille Indian Tribe, Snohomish Tribe of Indians, and Hoopa Valley Tribe, and the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin.
FSC strongly supports Tribal Nations’ efforts to promote responsible forest management and is dedicated to advancing their environmental and economic goals. In order to align and respect the sovereignty of Tribal Nations, FSC certification provides the opportunity to highlight the high standards tribes have in place. FSC can support tribal efforts by:
- Increasing timber sales: Provide added value to tribes through sales of FSC-certified forest products in the marketplace.
- Recognizing exemplary forest management: FSC offers tribes market recognition of their commitment to responsible forest management.
- Supporting ecosystem services: FSC certification helps to protect forests for ecosystem services such as clean water, biodiversity and wildlife, carbon sequestration, and cultural, spiritual, and recreational benefits.
- Connecting tribal supply with demand: FSC can help market tribes’ forest products through buildwithfsc.org, FSC newsletters, social media, the Climate-Smart Wood Group, and through local events to promote tribal timber.
FSC will continue to build our relationships with tribes, seeking opportunities to help in protecting the long-term sustainability of their forestlands.