The relationship between the Indian Tribes of Oregon and state government dates back to territorial times and has been evolving for more than 200 years. In the earliest days, Indian Tribes dealt primarily with the federal government, under treaties that codified their relationship. This lasted more than a century, with the federal government assisting in such services as housing, water, police, education and health care for Indian Tribes.
Shift toward state government
Over the past 30 years, a significant shift in governmental relations has occurred, with a marked reduction in federal-Tribe interaction and a much greater connection between state government and Indian communities.
The driving force has been the shift in funding streams; federal funding of social and health services for Tribes is now passed through state agencies rather than coming directly from the federal government. Instead of the federal government directly providing services and administering programs, the Tribes now administer and operate their own health and human-service programs using federal funds that are funneled through state government.
One important factor in the acceleration of the shift was the advent of the Oregon Health Plan in 1994. To ensure that Tribes could access OHP benefits and coverage, DHS began regular meetings with Tribal representatives, which proved to be valuable both to the department and the Indian communities.
Executive order on state-Tribal relations becomes law
Those meetings were formalized in May of 1996, when Governor Kitzhaber signed Executive Order 96-30 on State/Tribal Government-to-Government Relations. The purpose of the order was to "establish a process which can assist in resolving potential conflict, maximize key intergovernment relations and enhance an exchange of ideas and resources for the greater good of all Oregon's citizens, whether Tribal or not." In the 2001 session of the Oregon Legislature, Executive Order 96-30 was codified into Senate Bill 770 and passed into law.
Under that law, the ongoing meetings about health care were expanded to become what are now the Public Health Division meetings. In addition to representatives of the department's health programs, the meetings also bring together people from DHS child welfare, self-sufficiency, senior and disability programs. Though health care is a primary topic, other issues such as transportation, child welfare and housing are regularly raised at the quarterly meetings.
DHS Tribal liaison
In December, 1997, DHS established a Tribal relations liaison position within the Directors Office. Duties include coordinating the Public Health Division meetings and working with Tribes to solve specific problems that arise. The liaison also trains DHS staff and partners on the relationship between the department and Tribes. The Department has also appointed special Tribal liaisons that represent all main areas of DHS programs: child welfare, health, self-sufficiency, vocational rehabilitation, senior services and disability services.
Areas of work with Tribes
Currently, DHS interacts with Oregon Tribes on services that include health care, alcohol and drug treatment programs, mental health services, employment and training, services to people with disabilities, senior programs, public health and child welfare. Two of these areas are of particular concern both to Tribes and the department: health care and child protective services.
Indian Tribes provide health-care services to their Tribal members through clinics that the Tribes operate in their communities. These facilities receive funds from Tribal, federal and state sources. The DHS Office of Medical Assistance Programs (OMAP) works closely with the Tribal clinics to ensure that Oregon Health Plan coverage is extended to those who qualify.
Child protective services
The treatment of Indian children in the child-protective field is another area of attention for the Tribes. Tribes from across the nation lobbied Congress for a statute to address their concerns beginning in 1970, and in 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) became law. Among its provisions, the law requires that Tribes be allowed to become a party in child welfare cases in state courts, when the case involves Indian children who have been removed from their home by a city, county or state agency. Because of this and other requirements, the state developed several intergovernmental agreements with Tribes around child welfare. Since 1978, DHS has worked with Tribes to implement the Indian Child Welfare Act.