Land stewardship collaborations have increased between federal and state governments with Native American tribes who were removed from their ancestral lands, but some advocates say the pacts don't go far enough. "Known as co-management or co-stewardship, [the agreements] range from pledges to consult with tribes to full-fledged partnerships that give tribal leaders an equal seat on governing commissions," reports Alex Brown of Stateline. "While praising such efforts generally, Native leaders say the agreements have been a mixed bag in terms of granting real authority to tribes."

In 2019, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe forged a successful collaboration agreement with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to co-manage the Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park, which is home to the largest collection of petroglyphs in Michigan, Brown reports. "The partnership has helped state managers better understand the petroglyphs' meanings. . . . They're now collaborating to build a ceremonial teaching lodge." Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan History Center, told Brown: "We basically make all decisions together now. The more we learn about our partners, their culture and beliefs, the more that gets filtered into how we talk about this."

"The collaboration in Michigan is part of a growing movement to restore tribes' role in managing the lands and waters within their ancestral territories. Proponents note that many of America's most cherished public lands were established only after the displacement of the Indigenous people who called them home," Brown explains. "Last year, federal land managers signed an agreement with five tribes to co-manage Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Those nations — the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and the Pueblo of Zuni — form a commission that works with the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to oversee the monument. . . . Advocates say the agreement was a landmark win for tribal management. . . . [But] some believe that stolen lands like national parks should be returned outright to their original stewards."

Read the full article about land collaborations with rural Indigenous peoples by Heather Close at The Rural Blog.