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Sharing the importance of Tribal consultation with educators and other Oregon state agency staff

In 2001, Oregon became the first state to legally require Tribal consultation with the passage of Senate Bill 770. This law established a framework for communication between state agencies and Tribes to support effective government-to-government relations. 

Since then, some instances of Tribal consultation have been successful. However, many state employees have asked for support and guidance for entering into meaningful consultation with Tribes. 

April Campbell, assistant superintendent at the Oregon Office of Indian Education (OIE), had a vision for addressing this need. She realized that agency staff could benefit from resources that communicate the significance of consultation from the perspective of the Tribes themselves.

Following Campbell’s vision, Region 16 teamed up with OIE, the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), and the Legislative Commission on Indian Services (LCIS) to help guide Oregon state employees in enacting meaningful consultation. 

Getting Started

Campbell’s idea was to create a series of nine 10-minute videos to help explain the heart and spirit behind Tribal consultation and its relationship to Indigenous sovereignty from the perspectives of the nine federally recognized Tribes in Oregon.

The result, achieved in collaboration with the Tribes, is a set of videos offering a vital opportunity to learn from Tribal leaders about the significance of consultation. The knowledge shared by each sovereign Nation provides unique insight into how meaningful consultation can support the well-being of Tribal and non-Tribal communities alike.

To begin, our team asked ourselves:

How do we engage federally recognized Tribes in Oregon?

  1. Include Native colleagues. Through this project, we learned the importance of leading with Native perspectives and expertise by including Native colleagues on our team. Region 16 partnered with a Native- and woman-owned management consulting firm dedicated to creating space for American Indian and Alaska Native people, Tribal and urban Indian communities, and social sector programs. One team member from this firm led outreach to the Tribes, arranged introductory meetings and site visits, and provided guidance on culturally responsive filming and communications practices.

  2. Understand that Tribes are sovereign nations. Tribal leaders represent their nations in Washington, D.C., participate in state and local meetings, and attend to the business of running their governments and taking care of their communities. In many cases, Tribal government leaders are unpaid elected officials who often have competing professions and responsibilities. We built in time for the Tribes to come together to discuss — and, in some cases, come to a consensus about — participating in this project. Delays did not indicate they were not interested. This project was just one of many requests they receive every day.

  3. Acknowledge the significance of the invitation. It is an honor to be invited to interview Tribal leaders, to film Native children in classrooms, and to meet and photograph Elders weaving baskets and young people at a Youth Council meeting. When you learn more about a Tribe and center that Tribe’s experiences, it’s impossible not to feel immense gratitude for the invitation. Our team members agree that these site visits have been the highlight of our professional careers and have all offered deep learning. We hold each visit in our hearts and in our minds.

  4. Co-design the video with the Tribes. The entire project was designed to gather Tribal consultation experiences from the Tribes themselves. Our questions were open-ended, and we recorded what each Tribe chose to share. We asked: 
    • What is Tribal consultation, and why is it important for state agency staff to know about it? 
    • In relation to your Tribe, what do you want state agency staff to know about Tribal consultation?

Because Tribes shared their stories, the raw video footage and photos recorded on their lands belong to them. We used a co-design process to review and edit the videos into their final versions to share with state employees. A teammate from the Native- and woman-owned management consulting firm compiled and edited each transcript and shared it with the Tribe for feedback, revisions, and approval. After the transcripts were reviewed, our editor produced the video according to the approved transcripts. 

Final Thoughts

As we finish the series and prepare for distribution, the Oregon Department of Education hopes the videos help state employees deepen their knowledge of the importance of Tribal sovereignty and self-determination through consultation. We are grateful for the Tribes’ engagement in this project and warm hospitality to our team.

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