“The self-governance concept provides our Tribe the flexibility to restructure our programs and address Tribal priorities and needs. Through Self-Governance the Tribe is able to re-design programs to meet Tribally specific needs without diminishing the United States’ trust responsibility to Indian peoples and Tribes.”
Self-Governance is premised on the government-to-government relationship that exists between Indian Tribes and the United States as sovereign nations. Indian Tribes have always been recognized as independent sovereign nations with the authority to conduct their affairs under their inherent powers. In 1988, Congress authorized a demonstration project called Self-Governance which allowed for many programs and services formally administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to be transferred to the Tribes themselves. The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe was one of the first seven Tribes in the nation to participate in this project.
Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe has emerged as a national leader in successfully implementing and promoting Self-Governance. On October 25, 1994, the “Tribal Self-Governance Act of 1994″ (Public Law 103-413) was passed and signed into law by President Clinton. On August 18, 2000, President Clinton signed the “Tribal Self-Governance Amendments of 2000” (Public Law 106-260) which creates a permanent Self-Governance program within the Department of Health & Human Services. This law promotes self-determination and the government-to-government relationship while addressing many issues that have frustrated Tribal leaders during the implementation of the permanent self-governance program within the Department of Interior. The passage of these bills secure Self-Governance as a permanent way for Tribes to do business if they so choose, and is considered a real victory for Tribes.
2008 marked the 20th anniversary of the Self-Governance initiative. In celebration, a recent video entitled “Self-Governance – The Next Chapter” was filmed to showcase Tribal successes. This 15-minute video includes interviews with Tribal leaders and highlights several Tribes, including the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe has been actively involved in the Self-Governance initiative since its inception in 1988. For those not familiar with this concept, a commonly asked question is….
“What is Self-Governance and what does it mean to the Tribe?”
Tribal Self-Governance is premised on the government-to-government relationship that exists between Indian Tribes and the United States as sovereign nations. Indian Tribes have always been recognized as independent sovereign nations with the authority to conduct their affairs under their inherent powers. In 1988, Congress authorized a demonstration project called Self-Governance which allowed for many programs and services formally administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to be transferred to the Tribes themselves. The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe was one of the first seven Tribes in the nation to participate in this project.
Funding that is annually negotiated and received through Self-Governance is used to support numerous Tribal programs and activities. Some of these services include tuition and books for educational purposes; housing; cultural enhancement (such as the Summer Culture Program); natural resources and harvest management; enrollment; water resources planning; aquaculture planning and other business development activities; to name just a few! In January 1994, the Tribe extended Self-Governance to include programs and services provided by the Indian Health Service (IHS), such as mental health, alcohol and substance abuse, and community health nursing. In 1995, the Tribe began implementation of a managed care health program. The plan that has been developed by the Tribe is a new and innovative approach to providing health care for Indian people and has been used as model for other Tribes in the nation.
The key to this success is that, under Self-Governance, the Tribe is provided maximum flexibility in meeting the needs of the Tribal community and can redesign programs and funding to meet those needs which the Tribe has determined are its priorities. It has also strengthened the Tribal government and operations by making the Tribal Council accountable for these funds rather than a governmental agency such as the BIA or the IHS.
On a national level, there are over 330 Tribes and Tribal organizations, all with diverse geographic conditions and varying governmental structures, currently participating in Self-Governance. These participants include several other Tribes in Western Washington (Lower Elwha S’Klallam, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Lummi Indian Nation, Quinault Indian Nation, Squaxin Island Tribe, Makah Tribe, and the Swinomish Tribe), as well as larger Tribes such as the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and smaller Tribes located in remote regions of Alaska. And the interest in Self-Governance by other Tribes who would like to participate is continuing to increase.
In conclusion, Self-Governance has strengthened the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe as a governmental entity and has provided the leverage for the Tribe to move into the future in a progressive, strong, and self-reliant manner. Self-Governance continues to be a challenging and exciting opportunity for the Tribe to exercise its governing powers under this “new way of doing business.”
For further information
Regarding national Self-Governance issues
Jennifer A. McLaughlin, Esq., J.D., LL.M
Self-Governance Legislative Associate
Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe
1033 Old Blyn Hwy
Sequim, WA 98382
Office : 360-912-2241
website : www.tribalselfgov.org