For millennia, Indigenous communities have practiced what we now call regenerative agriculture, alongside traditional hunting and fishing practices. These methods have been enshrined in treaties, alongside promises of support from the U.S. government. Inherent to many of the 370 treaties ratified between tribal nations and the federal government between 1778-1871 is the “federal trust responsibility,” an agreement that the federal government would protect tribal lands and self-government while providing needed support services such as health, education, and agriculture, to ensure tribal success. Centuries of often violent oppression of Native peoples shows that fulfillment of those promises and protection of tribal nations’ rights have been repeatedly broken, resulting in chronic underfunding in Indian country.
A change may be coming in the form of $31 billion recently earmarked in the American Rescue Plan for tribal communities. Like many federal dollars bound for Indian Country, this funding will pass through the states. A clear understanding of the process at the state level and a strong relationship between state and tribal nations makes the process more efficient.
While much about the relationship with tribal nations is conducted at the federal level, states have roles to play in interacting and working with tribal nations within their boundaries, including in facilitating tribal food and land sovereignty and restoration of Indigenous hunting rights. States also play a critical role in recognizing and supporting tribal nations that are not federally recognized so that these tribes can access critical services. The U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services all have the statutory and regulatory authority to provide funding for state-recognized tribes.