Conservation in Indian Country: Strengthening Our Relationships with Tribes

As the conservation community faces immense challenges to make wildlife conservation relevant and important to a rapidly growing and changing society, we are privileged to have as partners Native American Tribes, who understand the value of their natural heritage. 

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Manager Charlie Blair talks with Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Sioux.Credit: Charles Traxler/USFWS

With Tribes at our side, we have given many imperiled species a better chance in the modern world.

In the Southwest, I think about the efforts of the Pueblos with Rio Grande species like the silvery minnow and the Southwestern willow flycatcher.

Tribes have certainly been vital partners our ongoing work to recover the black-footed ferret.  Six of the 20 ferret reintroduction sites are on Tribal lands. I could go on for ages

I had the good fortune to help our team release about 20 ferrets on Lower Brule Tribal lands in central South Dakota a few years ago. It was one of the highlights of my conservation career. I want to expand and magnify that feeling of accomplishment and success, strengthening our partnership wherever possible.

That’s why I’m proud to announce the selection of Scott Aikin as the Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Native American Liaison.

Scott brings a wealth of experience and contacts to this role, and I’m excited for the opportunity to work together with him to strengthen and expand our ties with Tribes throughout Indian Country.

Our trust responsibility to federally-recognized tribes is among our most important tasks, and in recognition of this, I’ve elevated the position of National Native American Liaison.  When he assumes his new role in the next several weeks, Scott will report directly to the Director’s office.

Scott, an enrolled member of the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation of Northeast Kansas, currently serves as the Deputy Regional Director of Indian Services for the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Northwest Region, a position he has held since 2010. He has more than two decades of experience helping the Federal Government carry out its trust responsibility toward Tribes throughout the United States.

In his new capacity as the National Native American Liaison, Scott will work with the Department and our agency’s leadership team to ensure that the agency’s actions and authorities are implemented in ways that respect and acknowledge tribal sovereignty and the importance of tribal wildlife stewardship.  One of our biggest needs is to update the Service’s Native American Policy, a process already underway.  The updated policy is an important step in strengthening our partnership with Tribes in addressing fish and wildlife conservation issues. 

Our job is to make sure wild things and wild places are around not just for us and our children, but for the children of the next seven generations and beyond. I’m excited to work with Scott to deepen our partnerships with Tribes across Indian Country for the benefit of wildlife and people.

 

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Last updated: August 31, 2011