Cherokee tribal artist Shirley Jackson Oswalt at the annual Tribal Cultural Fair, Fading Voices, in the Snowbird Community of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, courtesy of the Tribal Preservation Program
The American Indian Liaison Office (AILO) provides guidance to National Park Service (NPS) field and program managers to enable them to interact with American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives on a government-to-government basis. The office provides guidance concerning Indian self-determination, tribal self-governance, environmental review, land restoration, free exercise of religion, sacred sites, and traditional cultural properties. AILO assists in reconciling programs, policies, and regulations, with traditional uses of NPS lands by American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.
The AILO serves the National Park Service directorate, regional, and park staff with training, consulting, and guidance to resolve specific longstanding tribal concerns regarding park units, park lands, and park resources; and to collaboratively develop policy and guidance on many matters of mutual tribal-park interest.
The AILO serves tribal governments and tribal members with regard to natural resources, park policy, park units, park practice, land restoration, and the resolution of long standing issues with NPS.
In addition, the AILO collaborates with other Department of Interior bureaus to develop Department-wide and government-wide guidance on issues involving tribal governments. AILO also participates in international efforts to join with indigenous peoples to achieve common natural resource and cultural heritage preservation goals.
Examples of multi-year collaborative efforts involving the AILO include:
- Passage of the Timbisha-Shoshone Homeland Act of 2000 which modestly expanded tribal land and created preservation area buffer zones to be managed by the tribe within Death Valley National Park.
- Successful completion of a land exchange between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and NPS enabling the band to construct a consolidated educational campus for grades K through 12 in a location accessible to the northern and southern portions of the reservation and done in such a way that the view shed and natural resources of the parks in question have benefitted.
- Signing a Memorandum of Understanding by eight tribes and Olympic National Park.
- Development of multi-year self-governance agreements between the Grand Portage Band of Indians and Grand Portage National Monument to provide park funding to the band for managing the maintenance of the monument along with additional projects.
- Efforts to revise NPS regulations and create a process that could enable a Federally-recognized tribe to enter into an agreement with a park regarding the gathering of certain culturally important plants and minerals.
- Production of Indian Law and Policy workshops which have trained over 800 participants since 1997.