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About Tribal Affairs

What we do

Tribal Affairs works with all five ODHS programs to create and provide tribally appropriate programming, services, policies and support. Through tribal consultation with the Nine Federally Recognized Tribes of Oregon, ODHS ensures programming, services and policies meet the needs of Oregon Tribal communities.


Raising the level of health and wellness of all Oregon Tribal communities through elevating Tribal voice, sovereignty and culture.


  • Collaborate and partner with Tribal communities.
  • Offer and develop tribally appropriate training, practice, and policy.
  • Respect, build and maintain relationships.
  • Inform and provide awareness of ODHS Tribal Affairs.
  • Mediate and resolve challenges through flexible consultation and a strengths-based approach.


Relationships, accountability, tribally responsive practice, inclusion, transparency, trust, integrity, service orientation and community.

The function and work of Tribal Affairs is distinct within ODHS. This distinction led Tribal Affairs to frame its work through the lens of Tribal culture. Baskets are symbolic in Tribal culture because they carry the stories and traditions of the tribe along with having much utility. Within Tribal Affairs, baskets are used to help organize and structure projects, initiatives, resources and events.

Strategic Communications Basket

Culturally responsive and Tribal-specific messaging will bring about strategic, inclusive and equitable communication among the Nine Federally Recognized Tribes of Oregon, Tribal communities, and collaborating partners within ODHS.

Orange Shirt Day banner

Tribal Consultations and Partnership Basket

Through intentional Tribal consultation and early engagement with the Nine Federally Recognized Tribes of Oregon, ODHS works in partnership to create or redesign service delivery that effectively serve Tribal children, families and elders.

Group of five women standing together

Resource Management Basket

Through managing and leveraging resources, Tribal Affairs supports internal and external partnerships for mutual benefit.

Conference attendees sit together watching a presentation

Program, Practice and Policy Development Basket

An effective service delivery system has ​many pieces working together to produce a healthy outcome. Tribal Affairs continues to improve in these areas, which are pivotal to the success of ODHS and the outcomes of those we serve.

Oregon Tribes flags

Training and Capacity Building Basket

Enhancing training and capacity building is essential in learning how to deliver effective services within a Tribal context. With the appropriate skills, tools and guidance, ODHS can meet the needs of Tribal children, families and elders.

Three women stand together, the woman in the middle has been given a blanket

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, 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 services such as housing, water, police, education and health care for 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, Tribes now administer and operate their own health and human-service programs using federal funds funneled through state government.

The advent of the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) in 1994 helped accelerate this shift. To ensure that Tribes could access OHP benefits and coverage, Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) began regular meetings with Tribal representatives, which proved to be valuable both to the department and the Tribes.

Executive order on state-Tribal relations becomes law

​Those meetings were formalized in May 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 intergovernmental 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.

Current meetings

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 ODHS programs. Though health care is a primary topic, other issues such as transportation, child welfare and housing are regularly raised at the quarterly meetings.

Tribal liaison

In December 1997, ODHS established a Tribal relations liaison position within the Director's Office. Duties include ​coordinating Public Health Division meetings and working with Tribes to solve specific problems that arise. The liaison also trains department staff and partners on the relationship between the department and Tribes. The ​department has appointed special Tribal liaisons that represent all main areas of ODHS programs.

Tribal Affairs staff

Regional ICWA Specialists