Our relationships with tribal nations

The United States Government has a unique legal relationship with Indian tribes, defined by treaties, statutes, executive orders, court decisions and the U.S. Constitution itself. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers interacts with tribes on a government-to-government level within this framework.

Indian tribes are considered independent nations according to U.S. law and court decisions, and must be dealt with by the U.S. government, including the Corps of Engineers, in the same way we would deal with any other nation.

Nashville District Tribal Liaison

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District coordinates, consults, and works with tribes on a multitude of projects and issues, including cultural resources management and protection, fish and wildlife conservation and restoration, access to sacred sites, water resource development, flood risk reduction, permitting actions and environmental restoration. 

In undertaking any action which may impact tribal rights or interests, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is guided by the following six principles:

  • Recognition of Tribal Sovereignty
  • Fullfillment of Federal Trust Responsibilities to Tribes
  • Interaction on a Government-to-Government Basis
  • Pre-Decisional, Open, and Honest Consultation
  • Support for Tribal Self Reliance, Capacity Building, and Growth
  • Preservation and Protection of Natural and Cultural Resources
Repatriation and reburial of Native American human remains and cultural objects: The 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) allows for the disposition and repatriation of Native American human remains and certain cultural items to culturally affiliated Indian tribes.  The NAGPRA plan outlines roles and responsibilities and establishes forms to track compliance status.  Section 208 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2000 gives the Corps authority to set aside areas at civil works projects to rebury Native American remains at government expense.  The plan provides consistent practices for establishing new reburial areas and formalizes those areas which have already been used by the tribes for the burial of human remains.

Cultural resources represent a partial record of thousands of years of human occupation, adaptations and use of the land and its resource potentials.

Most often, cultural resources refer to definite, physical places that can be identified and located by the presence of artifacts or other material evidence, such as a prehistoric village site or a 19th century pioneer townsite.  In a broader sense, the term also applies to abstract values and ideas.  For example, a mountain considered to be sacred or plant with ritual uses would have special meaning to a tribal group, and therefore, as a traditional cultural property, are considered cultural resources.

Cultural resources are recognized as fragile, irreplaceable resources with potential public and scientific uses, representing an important and integral part of the nation's heritage.  In order to meet its legal responsibilities, the Nashville District inventories, evaluates, uses, protects, preserves and interprets significant cultural resources with review and advice from the State Historic Preservation Office, appropriate Native American Tribal Governments and the President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.  These latter two are not regulatory bodies, but advisory only.