Department of Defense

American Indian and Alaska Native Policy

October 20, 1998


These principles establish the Department of Defense’s (DoD) American Indian and Alaska Native Policy for interacting and working with federally-recognized American Indian and Alaska Native governments (hereinafter referred to as "tribes"1). These principles are based on tribal input, federal policy, treaties, and other federal statutes. The DoD policy supports tribal self-governance and government-to-government relations between the federal government and tribes. Although these principles are intended to provide general guidance to DoD Components on issues affecting tribes2, DoD personnel must consider the unique qualities of individual tribes when applying these principles, particularly at the installation level. These principles recognize the importance of increasing understanding and addressing tribal concerns, past, present, and future. These concerns should be addressed prior to reaching decisions on matters that may have the potential to significantly affect protected tribal resources, tribal rights, or Indian lands.3


DoD will meet its responsibilities to tribes. These responsibilities are derived from:

    1. Federal statutes (e.g., Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, American Indian Religious Freedom Act, National Environmental Policy Act, National Historic Preservation Act, Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act, and Archeological Resources Protection Act); and
    2. Other federal policies (e.g., Executive Order 12898, "Environmental Justice"; Executive Order 13007, "Indian Sacred Sites"; Executive Order 13021 "Tribal Colleges and Universities"; "Executive Memorandum: Government to Government Relations with Native American Tribal Governments," dated 29 April 1994; and Executive Order 13084, "Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments").

DoD will annually review the status of relations with tribes to ensure that DoD is:


Build stable and enduring relationships with tribes by:



Fully integrate (down to staff officers at the installation level) the principle and practice of meaningful consultation and communication with tribes by:



Recognize and respect the significance tribes ascribe to certain natural resources and properties of traditional or customary religious or cultural importance by:


SecDef Cohen Signature
William S. Cohen
Secretary of Defense



1. As defined by most current Department of Interior/Bureau of Indian Affairs list of tribal entities published in Federal Register pursuant to Section 104 of the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act.

2. This policy is not intended to, and does not, grant, expand, create, or diminish any legally enforceable rights, benefits, or trust responsibilities, substantive or procedural, not otherwise granted or created under existing law. Nor shall this policy be construed to alter, amend, repeal, interpret, or modify tribal sovereignty, any treaty rights, or other rights of any Indian tribes, or to preempt, modify, or limit the exercise of any such rights.

3. Definition of Key Terms: