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EPA Reaffirms 20 Years of Partnership with Indian Tribes

Release Date: 09/24/2004
Contact Information:

Cathy Milbourn 202-564-7824 /

(Washington, D.C.-September 24, 2004) The Environmental Protection Agency's commitment to the partnership between the agency and Indian Tribes was reaffirmed Thursday at an Open House commemorating the 20th anniversary of EPA's Indian Policy. This policy entrusted EPA with the responsibility of supporting the role of Tribal governments in protecting the environment and public health in Indian Country.

"This is an excellent way to celebrate the culture of American Indians with colleagues and friends," said Steve Johnson, EPA's Deputy Administrator. "In this 20th year of our EPA Indian Policy, I am pleased that representatives from Tribal Organizations and the U.S. Forest Service have joined us to acknowledge the achievements of Native Americans and their contributions to this Nation."

"I am proud to be a part of two significant events this week the opening of the nations's first museum dedicated to the cultural achievements of Native Americans and the reaffirmation of the EPA's Indian Policy," said Carol Jorgensen, Director of EPA's American Indian Environmental Office. "We have waited a long time for this historical moment which recognizes the indigenous peoples and honors our vibrant cultures."

In 1984, EPA became the first federal agency to adopt a formal Indian Policy of working with federally recognized tribes on a government-to-government basis. The United States has a unique legal relationship with tribal governments based on the constitution, treaties, statutes, executive orders, and court decisions. This relationship includes a recognition of the right of tribes as sovereign governments to self-determination and an acknowledgment of the federal government's trust responsibility to the tribes.

The EPA Tribal Program has made important progress since the policy was adopted including establishing the American Indian Environmental Office to manage EPA's National Indian Program, increasing the funding and staffing of EPA tribal programs, working with tribes and Congress to amend three of the core program statutes to allow tribes to directly assume program authority, and establishing the Tribal Operations Committee.

Earlier in the week, EPA participated in the Grand Opening of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. EPA employees also marched in a Native Nations Procession along with many tribes, tribal and non-tribal organizations and other Federal agencies that kicked off a week-long series of events. Information about EPA's Indian Program is available at: . Information about the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian is at: .