Tribal sovereignty has existed since time immemorial.
Prior to the formation of the United States Government, Tribal Nations negotiated treaties with Great Britain and Spain, establishing them as nations on the global level. Tribal sovereignty is inherent, existing before the United States Government existed.
Through Supreme Court cases, statutes and regulations, agreements made through treaties between Tribes and the United States Government have created a “trust responsibility.” Trust responsibility is a legally enforceable obligation of the United States to protect tribal self-determination, tribal lands, assets, resources, and treaty rights, as well as carry out the directions of federal statutes and court cases.
Tribal governance is based on trusted systems, policies, and environments—governance that empowers our people, is culturally competent, and promotes health equity.
Tribes with ceded land in Washington State signed treaties with the United States before Washington became a state. Today, Tribes and the State of Washington work together in a government-to-government relationship.
The Centennial Accord, which was executed on August 4, 1989, ensures the paramount authority for both Tribal governments and Washington State governments to exist and to govern, and establishes the respect for the values and cultures represented by Tribal governments.
The Millennium Agreement, which was signed in 1999, frames the terms and principles of the State/Tribal relationship required to cement the government-to-government relationship. The principles include partnership and collaboration related to economic, social/cultural issues, and natural resources. It also established a commitment to improved communication, cooperative education, and the development of a consensus-based, lasting, and respectful relationship.
Government-to-government work also includes holding the federal government accountable to fulfilling treaty obligations regarding health. This becomes particularly important when setting state policies and procedures that have a mix of federal and state funding and directly impact Indian Health Care Providers, both at Tribal Clinics and Urban Indian Health Organizations.
See the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs for how the Centennial Accord and Millenium Agreement are being implemented on an ongoing basis.