Tribal Nations Overview

The USACE Tribal Nations Program implements the DoD American Indian/Alaska Native Policy and the USACE Tribal Policy Principles.  We acknowledge the wisdom that Tribes bring to the table and how our programs, projects and activities are enhanced by their input.

The primary goals of our program are:
  (1) to consult with Tribes that may be affected by USACE projects or policies and
  (2) to reach out and partner with Tribes on water resources projects.

USACE Tribal Policy Principles

Our Nation has long recognized the sovereign status of Indian tribes.  The United States Constitution specifically addresses tribal sovereignty by classing Indian treaties among the "supreme Law of the land", and establishes tribal affairs as a unique focus of Federal concern.  Principles outlined in the Constitution and treaties, as well as those established by Federal laws, regulations and Executive Orders, continue to guide our national policy towards Tribal Nations. 

In recognition of the special considerations due to tribal interests, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has adopted the following Tribal Policy Principles:
(Click on each principle to view supporting documents.)
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 Tribal Sovereignty - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recognizes that Tribal governments are sovereign entities.
  • United States Constitution 
    • Article I, Section 8, clause 3: "The Congress shall have Power ... To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."
    • Article VI, clause 2: "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."
  • Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 1 (1831):  Court opinion authored by Justice Marshall found that the Cherokee Nation had proven itself to be "a distinct political society, separated from others, capable of managing its own affairs and governing itself" and went on to describe tribes, in general, as "domestic dependent nations."
  • Worcester v. Georgia, 31 U.S. (6 Pet.) 515 (1832):  Court opinion authored by Justice Marshall found that Indian nations continued to exist as "distinct, independent political communities" and maintained the principle that "A weak State, in order to provide for its safety, may place itself under the protection of one more powerful without stripping itself of the right of government and ceasing to be a State."
  • Executive Order 13175 Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments (06 Nov 2000):  "The United States recognizes the right of Indian tribes to self-government and supports tribal sovereignty and self-determination."
 Trust Responsibility - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will work to meet trust obligations, protect trust resources, and obtain Tribal views of trust and treaty responsibilities.
 Government-to-Government - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will ensure that Corps leaders and Tribal leaders meet as governments and recognize that Tribes have the right to be treated in accordance with principles of self-determination.
 Pre-Decisional Consultation - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will involve Tribes collaboratively, before and throughout decision making, to ensure the timely exchange of information, the consideration of disparate viewpoints, and the utilization of fair and impartial dispute resolution processes.
 Self Reliance, Capacity Building, and Growth - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will search for ways to involve Tribes in programs, projects, and other activities that build economic capacity and manage Tribal resources while preserving cultural identities.
  • How to Plan a Water Resources Project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: A Guide for Tribal Governments
  • Continuing Authorities Program (CAP):  Congressional authorization for small, cost-shared, projects dealing with flood plain management, flood control, ecosystem restoration, erosion control, and stream bank protection.  Authorized through the Water Resources Development Act, as amended.
    • Small Projects for Flood Damage Reduction - Section 205 of the Flood Control Act of 1948 (amended by Section 1002 of WRDA 2007)
    • Small Projects for Emergency Streambank Protection - Section 14 of the Flood Control Act of 1946 (amended by Section 1003of WRDA 2007)
    • Navigation Improvements (reauthorized as Sections 1004, 1008, and 1009 of WRDA 2007)
    • Small Projects for Improvement of the Quality of the Environment - Section 1135 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 (amended by Section 1005 of WRDA 2007)
    • Small Projects for Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration - Section 206 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1996 (amended by Section 1006 of WRDA 2007)
    • Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction - Section 103 of the River and Harbor Act of 1962 (amended by Section 1007 [Small Projects for Shoreline Protection] of WRDA 2007)
  • Emergency Operations
    • Flood Control and Coastal Emergency Act (Public Law 84-99) (33CFR203):  Under PL 84-99, a Tribe can contact the local District emergency operations office directly to prepare for an "imminent" disaster.  For example, in the case of flooding, the Corps can deliver sand bags to the area that will be flooded and put in temporary structures, such as berms, around important infrastructure.  It is important that the Tribe also contact the appropriate state authorities, as the Corps works with state emergency response teams on these types of projects.
    • Stafford Act (42 U.S.C. 5121-5207):  After a state of disaster or emergency has been declared by the Governor of a state or the President of the United States, the Federal Emergency Management Agency oversees disaster relief funding and operations of federal agencies.  The Corps is typically responsible for public works protection, debris removal, and engineering missions.
  • Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program (NALEMP):  NALEMP is a Department of Defense program, carried out by the Corps, to remediate contamination caused by military activities on previously appropriated lands.  Tribes are commonly funded, through cooperative agreements, to perform the clean-up on Native American lands.
  • Planning Assistance to States and Tribes - Section 22 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1974 (amended by Section 2013 [Tribal Assistance] of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007):  The Corps can provide technical planning services to assist a Tribe or state in the creation of a comprehensive water resources strategy for developing, using, and conserving water and related land resources.
  • Tribal Partnership Program - Section 203 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (amended by Section 2011 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007):  The Corps is authorized to conduct small (<$100,000) reconnaissance studies of various water resources and related issues, such as flood damage reduction, environmental restoration and protection, watershed planning, cultural resources studies, and other appropriate projects.  Feasible projects resulting from these studies may be funded through a cost-share agreement that allows for in-kind contributions.
  • Executive Order 12898 - Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations (11 Feb 1994):  “…each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations in the United States…”  “Each Federal agency responsibility set forth under this order shall apply equally to Native American programs.”
  • Executive Order 13287 - Preserve America (03 Mar 2003):  “It is the policy of the Federal Government to provide leadership in preserving America’s heritage by actively advancing the protection, enhancement, and contemporary use of the historic properties owned by the Federal Government, and by promoting intergovernmental cooperation and partnerships for the preservation and use of historic properties.”  “The Secretary of Commerce … shall assist States, Indian tribes, and local communities in promoting the use of historic properties for heritage tourism and related economic development … as they relate to federally owned historic properties and significant natural assets on Federal lands.”
  • Rules and Regulations Governing Public Use of Water Resource Development Projects Administered by the Chief of Engineers (36 CFR 327):  “It is the policy of the Secretary of the Army, acting through the Chief of Engineers, to manage the natural, cultural and developed resources of each project in the public interest, providing the public with safe and healthful recreational opportunities while protecting and enhancing these resources.”
  • Engineer Regulation 1105-2-100:  “This regulation provides the overall direction by which Corps of Engineers Civil Works projects are formulated, evaluated and selected for implementation.”  “The Federal objective of water and related land resources project planning is to contribute to national economic development consistent with protecting the Nation’s environment.”
  • Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972:  “The Congress finds and declares that it is the national policy … to preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, to restore or enhance, the resources of the Nation’s coastal zone for this and succeeding generations…”  The Secretary of Commerce may make grants to coastal states for the study, protection, and management of coastal resources.
 Natural and Cultural Resources - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will act to fulfill its obligations to preserve and protect trust resources and to consider the potential effects of Corps programs on natural and cultural resources.  The Corps is determined to comply with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and to ensure reasonable access to sacred sites.