Attorney General Bob Ferguson last week announced a new policy that requires his 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.
Ferguson also 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.
This policy is the first of its kind in Washington state.
The Tribal Consent and Consultation policy is effective immediately.
“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,” Ferguson said. “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.”
“Through his actions today, Attorney General Ferguson has listened to, learned from and followed through on the advocacy of countless Native American leaders nationwide and Indigenous leaders globally who have defended the sovereignty and rights of their peoples,” said Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp. “By adopting ‘free, prior, and informed consent’ as the basis of his Administration’s interactions with Tribal Governments, Attorney General Ferguson has become a global standard bearer for recognizing the full sovereignty and political equality of Indigenous peoples.”
“Today, Attorney General Ferguson took a historic step forward in the relationship between Washington state and Washington’s Tribes by adopting Tribal relations policies founded on the principle of ‘free, prior, and informed consent,’” said Samish Indian Nation Chairman Tom Wooten. “By committing to work with Washington’s Tribes on the basis of true equality and collaboration, Attorney General Ferguson is demonstrating the vision and inclusive leadership we will need to confront immense challenges like climate change, homelessness, and the opioid crisis that impact all of Washington’s communities.”