A Long Overdue Policy Change to Recognize the Sovereignty of Tribal Governments
As demonstrated time and time again through many disasters across America, emergency management requires a team effort. Our country's tribal nations and leaders are an essential part of the team. The Obama administration has long been committed to supporting Indian Country in efforts to build resilient communities, prepared for all hazards.
Last week, on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the administration, I met with tribal leaders as a participant in the 2011 Tribal Nations Conference hosted by the White House. The goal of this multi-day event was to continue an honest, meaningful discussion between tribal leadership, the administration and federal agencies, to listen, learn and explore how we can continue to strengthen our government-to-government relationship.
During these conversations, I had the opportunity to announce -- consistent with our strong government-to-government relationship and after a lengthy review process -- that the administration supports amending the Stafford Act to allow federally recognized tribal governments to make a request directly to the president for a federal emergency or disaster declaration. Under current law, only states, through the governor, can make such requests.
Amending this legislation will acknowledge the sovereignty of federally recognized tribes and the trust responsibility of the United States, enhance FEMA's working relationship with tribal governments, and improve emergency responsiveness throughout Indian Country.
Craig Fugate is the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.