The Tohono O'odham, as do all federally recognized tribes, have special rights and privileges over other interested groups. They have special legal status as dependent sovereign nations, with the federal government holding their lands in trust although these lands, at the same time, are subject to management and use by tribal councils and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Federal legislation provides additional protection of religious freedom rights, cultural resources including human remains, sacred sites, and government-to-government relationships.
The government-to-government relationship is rooted in tribal sovereignty, dependent nation status, and the federal government’s trust responsibilities to American Indian tribes.
The U. S. government has a unique and special trust responsibility to federally recognized Indian tribes as established by treaties, statutes, court decisions, and the U. S. Constitution...tribes should not be considered “interested parties” because of their sovereign status...there are cultural differences and similarities frequently seen when tribal and nontribal participants meet (see Wax and Thomas 1961).
Some of the more common differences include the relative concept of time, the role of consensus decision-making, trying to control and profit from the environment, and the connection of religion and other traditional aspects of culture to the environment (Russo 2000). (Stapp and Burney 2002)
The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 (Public Law 89-665, as amended by Public Law 102-575), National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 (42 U.S.C. § 4321-4347), American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) of 1973 (42 U.S.C. § 1996), Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) of 1979 ( 16 U.S.C. 470aa – 470mm), and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990 (Public Law 101-601) require federal agencies to consult with tribes on a government-to-government basis.
The laws that provide for public participation in resource management contrast this relationship. The NHPA allows groups to contact agencies and apply to be recognized as an interested party for management of resources at a given place. The NEPA allows anyone to submit comments regarding management of resources at a given place to an agency during the decision-making process (Stapp and Burney 2002).
Other legal protection of Native American interests can be found in presidential executive orders, proclamations, and memorandums; federal regulations; and agency-specific management policies and directives:
Executive Order 11593. Protection and Enhancement of the Cultural Environment. (May 13, 1971, 36 FR 8921).
Memorandum on Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal Governments, April 29, 1994, 59 FR 22951 [25 USC 450].
Executive Order No. 13007. Protection and Accommodation of Access to Indian Sacred Sites. May 24, 1996, 61 FR 26771 [42 USC 1996].
Executive Order No. 13175. Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments. November 9, 2000, 65 FR 67249 [25 USC 450].
Presidential Memorandum entitled “Government-to-Government Relations with Native EO13084 (1994) Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments (63 FR 27655)
Federal Register 1995, 9250-9255.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) policies.
Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 (Public Law 94-579; 90 Stat. 2743; 43 U.S.C. 1701)
National Forest Management Act (NFMA) of 1976 (16 USC 1600 et seq.)
8100 Series “Protecting Cultural Resources, 8100 Series – Interim Guidance.” References include (Bureau of Land Management 2000):