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Indian Nation Affairs

Office of Indian Nation Affairs


This Wampum Belt is a replica of Gaswenta, or Two Row, which illustrates the relationship
between Indigenous and Euro-American settlers.
We are to travel the river of life together, side by side, offering help but never interfering.

The Office of Indian Nation Affairs works to address environmental concerns, cultural resources, and advance shared knowledge through consultation with State and Federally recognized Indian Nations. DEC announced the creation of a new Office of Indian Nation Affairs in August 2022. The office combines cultural affairs, historic preservation, and consultation with Indian Nations into one team to focus DEC's consultation and engagement with Indian Nations in New York. Consultation and engagement with New York's nine state and federally recognized Indian Nations is a priority for DEC and the creation of the new office builds upon the relationships and long history DEC has had with Indigenous Nations.

Together with the Office of Environmental Justice, the Office of Indian Nation Affairs works across the agency to bolster the commitment to meaningful government-to-government relations with Indian Nations through Commissioner's Policy 42 (PDF) which governs consultation. The mission of the office is to enhance and deepen existing engagement with the Indigenous Nations in New York through improved consultation, building shared knowledge, and communications and outreach. The Office addresses:

  • Government-to-government consultation with State- and federally recognized Nations on environmental issues.
  • Protection of cultural and historical resources.
  • Development and advancement of shared knowledge and understanding via research and further developing working relations.

Previously, Indian Nation relations were a priority for DEC addressed through the Office of Environmental Justice and was guided by CP-42. The Office of Environmental Justice worked diligently on relations with Indian Nations to make sure they were heard in agency decision-making. Dedicating DEC staff to this priority will benefit us all statewide.

Recent News

In May 2022, DEC, US Environmental Protection Agency's Region 2 Office, and leaders from Indian Nations across the region came together for four-days of meetings to discuss priorities related to climate and environmental quality. In June 2022, DEC worked with Onondaga Nation and US Department of Interior to secure the transfer of over 1,000 acres of land in the Tully Valley to the Onondaga Nation. (leaves DEC website) This was announced by the Governor, the U.S. Department of Interior and the Onondaga Nation and is one of the largest returns of land to an Indigenous Nation by any state.

State and National Historic Preservation Laws

The State Historic Preservation Act (Article 14 of the Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Law) requires DEC to evaluate projects it undertakes, funds or approves to determine if they will have an impact on historical or archaeological resources. The National Historic Preservation Act (Public Law 89-995) requires federal agencies to evaluate projects in a similar manner. Many times, Indian Nations are concerned about these resources as well, and DEC consults with Indigenous peoples on impacts to their cultural heritage.

Permitting Processes -- Environmental Conservation Law (ECL)

Reviewing applications and issuing permits for many permit programs is governed by the Uniform Procedures Act (UPA, Article 70 of the ECL). Under this law, a proposed project's effect on historic or archaeological resources must be evaluated according to the State Historic Preservation Act before applications can be decided upon or declared complete.

DEC Environmental Analysts will determine if proposed projects may impact one or more Indian Nations (environmentally and/or culturally). If they do, CP-42 requires DEC to provide those nations with the opportunity to consult on the project. This should be implemented as early as possible for effective discussions.

The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) (link leaves DEC's website) helps review projects for impacts to historical or archaeological resources. As such, projects should be submitted to OPRHP via the Cultural Resources Information System. (leaves DEC website)

If a proposed project requires a permit from any federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, they may also have to determine what impacts the project may have on environmental and cultural resources and require submission to OPRHP.

DEC provides additional information on permitting programs.

Consultation

Consultation is meaningful involvement in the decision-making process. According to CP-42 "consultation is open and effective communication in a cooperative process that, to the extent practicable and permitted by law, works toward a consensus before a decision is made or action is taken." In other words, consultation is listening and learning from others, helping everyone better understand each other's concerns and goals as all parties work towards a mutually agreeable outcome.

When DEC is bound by UPA timeframes, early consultation helps keep everything proceeding in a timely manner, while also allowing for project sponsors to hear and respond to impacted nations' concerns.

Contact Us

DEC Environmental Analysts and the Indian Nations Affairs team are willing to help answer any questions you may have regarding consultation. You can email us at OINA@dec.ny.gov or call us at 866-229-0497.


More about Indian Nation Affairs:

  • Indian Nation Consultation - Information About the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Environmental Justice Program and Tips for Preparing a Public Participation Plan
  • PDF Help
  • For help with PDFs on this page, please call 866-229-0497.
  • Contact for this Page
  • NYSDEC
    Office of Indian Nation Affairs (OINA)
    700 Delaware Avenue
    Buffalo, New York 14209-2202
    866-229-0497
    Send us an email
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