Washington State Attorney General Adopts a Free, Prior and Informed Consent Policy with Tribes

If we are to finally stop the endless bloodbath of war and imperialism, then holding accountable the governments and populaces of those same military powers when they wantonly abuse the human rights of the Indigenous Peoples in “their” home territories is the rational first step to creating a more humane world. So remember those letters: #FPIC, F-P-I-C. Those four powerful letters may be a key to the future of our species.” Fawn Sharp President of the Quinault Indian Nation

On May 10th, 2019, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson made a historic announcement that the Office of the Attorney General would be adopting a policy that, “requires the Attorney General’s Office to obtain free, prior and informed consent before initiating a program or project that directly and tangibly affects tribes, tribal rights, tribal lands and sacred sites.”

Further, the Attorney General announced that, “his office will refrain from filing any litigation against a tribal government or tribal-owned business without first engaging in meaningful consultation to resolve the dispute, provided that doing so does not violate the rules of professional conduct.”

The historic announcement comes as a result of years of Tribal Nations educating elected officials about Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

In an op-ed in Crosscut, Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp shares, “Inspired by the heroism of the Standing Rock Sioux in standing up to the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Quinault Indian Nation and the Tulalip Tribes in 2017 began a concerted and uncompromising effort to organize tribes behind replacing tribal consultation with free, prior, and informed consent. We were assisted by global expert Keith Harper, the decorated Cherokee attorney and diplomat who served President Obama as the U.S. ambassador and permanent representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council, and leading Washington tribal law attorney Rob Roy Smith.

By the beginning of winter in 2017, tribal leaders from nations across Washington state — including the Quinault Indian Nation, the Tulalip Tribes, the Samish Indian Nation, the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the Makah Nation, the Quileute Tribe, the Suquamish Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Squaxin Island Tribe and others — jointly advocated for Washington’s progressive leaders to take a stand on replacing tribal consultation with #FPIC.”

Further, “The phrase #FPIC comes from the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which states Indigenous Peoples must grant their “free, prior, and informed consent” before an action is taken that impacts their lands and rights. Its inclusion originated in the work of Washington’s tribes — and it appears its embodiment in law may also start here.

Passed by the United Nations in 2007, the UNDRIP was supposed to rectify the fundamental hypocrisy of modern nation states who recognize Indigenous Peoples in theory as “sovereign,” but treat them in practice as conquered and occupied subject peoples who may have “governments” and “rights,” but only to the extent that it is politically convenient and judicially enforced.”

At a joint press conference with Tribal Nation leaders Ferguson stated, “In furtherance of strengthening partnerships between Indian tribes and my office, I am announcing an official AGO policy requiring my office to achieve free, prior, and informed consent before initiating a project or program that directly and tangibly affects Indian tribes, rights, tribal lands and sacred sites. This is an historic step for the Attorney General’s Office and the State of Washington. I hope other government agencies across the state and the country take notice and consider similar steps.”

Tribal leaders and the Attorney General announce FPIC policy Photo from Fawn Sharp

Read the full Tribal Consent and Consultation policy here

by Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Matt Remle)

Matt Remle (Lakota) is an editor and writer for Last Real Indians and LRInspire and the co-founder of Mazaska Talks. Follow @wakiyan7

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