NIH is committed to respecting Tribal sovereignty and self-government. Given the complexity of NIH’s structure with its 27 Institutes and Centers and a research portfolio of more than $40 billion, the agency undertook Tribal Consultation in FY 2021 as part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Regional Tribal Consultation Sessions for input on its draft Tribal Consultation Policy. This draft Policy is an important step to a new and well-considered NIH Tribal Consultation Policy that would standardize the NIH process for initiating Consultation to seek Tribal input on proposed and ongoing NIH policies, programs, and research activities.

The draft Policy mirrors the HHS Tribal Consultation Policy and focuses on NIH-specific issues. It was written with extensive input from the NIH Tribal Advisory Committee and the Office of Science Policy. Prior to this, the agency adhered to the 2014 NIH Guidance on the Implementation of the HHS Tribal Consultation Policy.

Key Points:

The draft Policy reaffirms and strengthens the government-to-government relationship between Tribal Nations and the Federal Government. NIH strives to include American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations in biomedical and behavioral research to inform efforts at raising the overall health of Tribal communities, to help develop a cadre of AI/AN researchers, and to build the research capacity of Tribal Nations. This can only be done through effective Tribal Consultation.

NIH reviewed all input and written testimony received from Tribal leaders during the NIH 2021 Tribal Consultation and summarized recommendations by themes grouped under two sections: general comments and comments specific to the wording of the Policy itself. Overarching themes included the following:

  • Tribal sovereignty over research
  • Importance of Tribal Consultation
  • Tribal Consultations and Presidential Executive Orders
  • Reporting Consultation outcomes
  • Recognizing the diversity of Tribal Nations
  • Continued Tribal Nation engagement

Specific recommendations were also made to include sections noting definitions, objectives, and roles and responsibilities. Read the Tribal Consultation Report for complete details and learn more about the resulting new NIH Tribal Consultation Policy, effective March 17, 2022.