Serving New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and Eight Tribal Nations
Region 2 Indian Program
- Indian Program Home
- American Indian Environmental Office
- EPA Policy for the Administration of Environmental Programs on Indian Reservations [PDF 200 KB, 4 pp]
- Cayuga Nation
- Oneida Indian Nation
- Onondaga Nation
- St. Regis Mohawk Tribe
- Seneca Nation of Indians
- Shinnecock Indian Nation
- Tonawanda Band of Senecas
- Tuscarora Nation
For more information contact:
The Hiawatha Belt
The Hiawatha Belt symbolizes the five original nations from west to east in their respective territories across New York state - Seneca (People of the Great Hill), Cayuga (People of the Swamp), Onondaga (Keepers of the Fire), Oneida (People of the Standing Stone), and Mohawk (People of the Flint).
Federally-Recognized Indian Nations Located in Region 2 Area
The federal government recognizes the unique political relationship, based on treaties and history, between the Indian nation governments and the federal government. The EPA Indian Policy applies to federally-recognized Indian nations. Of the Haudenosaunee communities and other Tribes described above, eight are recognized by the federal government as "federally-recognized Indian Tribes" (see map below), with whom the federal government has a government-to-government relationship. Some, but not all, Indian nations or Tribes, apply to the Bureau of Indians Affairs for federal recognition. Such recognition allows the U.S. government to interact with these nations on a government-to-government basis and to provide services it cannot provide to nations that are not "federally-recognized". Within Region 2, the federally-recognized Indian nations include:
- Cayuga Nation
- Oneida Indian Nation (OIN)
- Onondaga Nation
- St. Regis Mohawk Tribe (SRMT)
- Shinnecock Indian Nation
- Seneca Nation of Indians (SNI)
- Tonawanda Band of Senecas
- Tuscarora Nation
Thus, Region 2 area consists of New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and eight federally-recognized Indian nations. These eight, all of which are located in the external boundaries of New York State, are members of the Iroquois Confederacy. The estimated Indian nation population is approximately 17,000; land holdings approximately 106,000 acres. (The land holdings may increase as several of the Indian nations have land claims pending.)
EPA Region 2 Indian Program
Outreach to these federally-recognized Indian nations, and Indian nation environmental program building, have grown in the past several years through the efforts of Indian nation and regional program staff and enhanced communication at the Indian nation leadership/EPA senior managers level. Program grant and technical assistance to Indian nations have increased. Grants under the General Assistance program, as well as program specific grants, have supported development of environmental capabilities of the Indian nations. For example, the SRMT's Iroquois Environmental Newsletter, funded through a General Assistance grant, facilitates sharing of environmental information among the eight Indian nations; the Tuscarora Nation also disseminates a newsletter: "Tuscarora Environment News". In addition, a solid waste grant to the SRMT resulted in a solid waste seminar with participation from the eight Indian nations.
The Region has a team consisting of a Regional Indian Program Coordinator, a Consultation Specialist and an Indigenous Environmental Affairs Specialist, as well as program staff and managers who carry out activities and outreach with regard to the eight federally-recognized Indian nations located in Region 2. In addition, there is regional coordination with the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force (HETF), responding to those federally-recognized Indian nations who support the development of environmental programs through the assistance of the HETF. The Regional Indian Program Coordinator, the Consultation Specialist and the Indigenous Environmental Affairs Specialist serve on the National Indian Workgroup and are primary contacts with EPA's AIEO.
The Regional Indian Program Coordinator heads up the Regional Indian Workgroup. Each Region 2 program and the Region 2 Office of Regional Counsel have designated a Regional Indian Workgroup member to serve as their primary representative participating in the workgroup to prepare for and schedule EPA manager/Indian nation leader meetings, and address Regional Indian Program action items. Further, this workgroup identifies key issues underlying the federal-Indian relationship, which potentially hamper the Region's implementation of the Agency's Indian Policy, and has recommended actions to address these issues.
The Region has made significant progress in implementing the EPA's 1984 Indian Policy and towards development of environmental programs for Indian lands. Specifically, over the past 15 years, Region 2 has increased its annual program funding outlays to Indian nations, and has provided increased technical assistance to Indian nations. For example, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, which up until FY-89 only received grant funds for drinking water programs, now receives EPA assistance under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, General Assistance, Public Water Supply System/Underground Injection Control, Wetlands, and the Superfund program. Also of particular note in this regard is the Memorandum of Agreement that has been signed with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, which is considered a national model for outlining EPA Regional-Indian nation interaction, and has led to discussions with other Indian nations.
Furthermore, the multi-media assistance program enabled EPA to enter into agreements, starting in FY-91, to provide an opportunity for Indian nations to address environmental problems on Indian lands in a comprehensive manner. Indian Environmental General Assistance funds, known until federal fiscal year 1994 as multi-media assistance grants, may be used for a variety of environmental program development activities such as a survey of overall environmental needs and support for management capabilities. It is important to note that Indian Environmental General Assistance is used to augment, not replace, EPA's program grants for Indian nations. To date, General Assistance has been awarded to the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, Oneida Indian Nation, and the Seneca Nation of Indians for a variety of program building activities, including environmental assessments and consortium building. In addition, in response to notifications from the Onondaga Nation, Tuscarora Nation, Tonawanda Seneca, and the Cayuga Nation, the Region awarded General Assistance funding to the consortia, Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force for the development of environmental programs through the assistance of the Haudenosaunee Environmental Taskforce.
Region 2 has designed a training program entitled Training on Working Effectively with Indian Nations and Indigenous Peoples to provide Region 2 employees with the necessary knowledge and skills to assist them in working with Indian nations and indigenous people, and implementing the Agency's Indian Policy.
1984 EPA Indian Policy
In 1984, EPA issued a national Indian Policy consistent with both the government-to-government relations between Federal and Tribal governments, and the principle of Indian self-government. In implementing this Policy, and in coordination with the Indian tribes located in the Region 2 area, the Indian tribes have identified their preference for the term "Indian nations", rather than "Indian tribes", to describe the government-to-government relationship; this includes those identified as a "Tribe" and as a "Band", as well as those identified as "Nation". With this in mind, for general purposes of this Web page and to describe activities within Region 2, the term "Indian nations" is utilized, rather than "Indian tribes", whenever possible.
Under the 1984 EPA Indian Policy, Indian nation governments are recognized as the appropriate entities to implement environmental programs that affect Indian reservations, their environments, and the health and welfare of reservation populations. The EPA Indian Policy recognizes that Indian nation governments possess knowledge regarding how to effectively govern under local circumstances and, therefore, are able to more effectively implement the environmental regulatory programs. Under the Policy, EPA is committed to offering Indian nations opportunities, similar to those we extend to the states, and to working with Indian nations to establish appropriate environmental programs.
The EPA Indian Policy has been reaffirmed by all succeeding Administrators since Administrator William D. Ruckelshaus in 1984. On July 22, 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson reaffirmed the Agency's commitment to the Policy.
Activities in support of the implementation of the EPA Indian Policy were initially coordinated through EPA-Headquarters Office of Federal Activities. The EPA has since established the American Indian Environmental Office (AIEO) within EPA-Headquarters. AIEO, working with its Regional components, is responsible for coordinating the Agency-wide effort to strengthen public health and environmental protection in Indian country. AIEO oversees development and implementation of the Agency's Indian Policy and strives to ensure that all EPA Headquarters and Regional offices implement their parts of the Agency's Indian Program in a manner consistent with EPA's trust responsibility to protect Tribal health and environments, Administration policy to work with Tribes on a government-to-government basis, and support of Tribal self-governance.
The National Indian Workgroup (NIWG), is chaired by the Director of the AIEO and is comprised of representatives from Regional and EPA-Headquarters Program Offices. The NIWG was established to facilitate and coordinate efforts to identify and resolve policy and programmatic barriers to working directly with Indian Tribes, to implement comprehensive tribal environmental programs, to identify priority tribal projects, and to perform other services in support of the Agency managers in implementing the Indian Policy.
The Tribal Operations Committee (TOC) was established in 1994 in order to improve communications and build stronger partnerships with Tribes. The TOC is comprised of 19 Tribal leaders or their environmental program managers (the Tribal Caucus), and EPA's Senior Leadership Team, including the Administrator, the Deputy Administrator, and the Assistant and Regional Administrators. The TOC meets on a regular basis to discuss the implementation of environmental protection.
The Agency Senior Managers Group, Indian Program Policy Council, is chaired by the EPA's Assistant Administrator for Water and includes a Senior Manager designated by each Assistant Administrator, and Regional Administrator, and the Director of the AIEO. This group discusses pressing and/or nationally significant issues, policy and program direction, and to exchange information between EPA-Headquarters and the Regions.
The National Indian Law Workgroup (NILW) is the counterpart to the NIWG, for addressing legal issues that arise in the course of developing and implementing the Agency's Indian program.
The nine EPA Regions that include federally-recognized Indian Tribes have also established Indian Offices and/or Regional Indian Program Coordinators to assist in the implementation of the 1984 EPA Indian Policy. The Regions, in turn, have established Regional Indian Workgroups to assist in enhancing EPA/Indian Tribe communications and to develop regional strategies for implementation of the 1984 EPA Indian Policy.