A narrowed interpretation of the Indian Reorganization Act in the Carcieri v. Salazar Supreme Court ruling limits the federal government’s ability to take land into trust to only those Native American tribes recognized by the United States government before 1934. U.S. Senator John Barrasso (Wyoming), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, convened a roundtable in an effort to end a six-year stalemate on a Carcieri “fix” that would restore trust acquisitions for all tribes and reduce impacts on communities abutting tribal lands.
Podziba Policy Mediation conducted an assessment that included multiple rounds of interviews and prepared a process design after negotiations with leadership of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Tribal Chiefs, County Commissioners and Supervisors, and leaders of the National Congress of American Indians, United Southern and Eastern Tribes, National Association of Counties, and California State Association of Counties. All participants were worried about the potential for public rebuke if they deviated from their organizational “scripts” in an effort to signal the flexibility needed to make future negotiations plausible.
Susan Podziba facilitated the Senate Committee Roundtable, which was attended by over 100 members of the public.
The participants held respectful talks, which increased their understanding of diverse perspectives and identified nuanced areas of potential agreement. To the surprise of participants and attendees, county officials publicly expressed respect for Indian sovereignty and a desire to work jointly. Tribal officials suggested past regional partnerships as models for doing so.