The State of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent: Talk with the Washington Attorney General and the President of the National Congress of American Indians

Our Founding Partner Marion Werkheiser recently participated in the Cultural Resource Protection Summit hosted by the Suquamish Tribe. She moderated a discussion with Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp. Watch the video here:

The speakers discussed how the Attorney General developed his first-in-the-nation policy to require free, prior, and informed consent from tribes before his office initiates a program or project that directly impacts tribes, tribal lands, and sacred sites. President Sharp shared how international human rights law illuminates the path forward for tribes and governments acting in good faith. The Attorney General, with support from Washington tribes, is now supporting a bill in the state legislature to codify his office’s policy.

Ferguson encouraged other elected leaders throughout the country to consider adopting similar policies. “There are really two goals for me in adopting this policy: 1) so that we have that policy in the AG’s office; and 2) to show the rest of the world, to show the rest of state and local governments that you can do this and it’s really not that hard. If the AG’s office can do it, then maybe you can do it as well.”

President Sharp shared, “Because this is such a cutting-edge policy here in the state of Washington and because there’s interest from other states that are wanting to follow a similar path, I know, I’m confident, and I am so hopeful and optimistic that while we’ve made significant progress just since 2010, imagine [what we can accomplish] in the next 5 years, the next 10 years, if we come together to continue to nationalize this fundamental basic value and principle and advance it.”

Katherine Sorrell is a Law Clerk at Cultural Heritage Partners.