Byways 101

Part 1: Program Overview

What Law Governs The Program?

The law guiding implementation of the Program is Section 162, Title 23 of the United States Code; 23 U.S.C. 162, which establishes the authority of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation in matters of carrying out a national scenic byways program, including nominations, designations, grants and technical assistance to States and Indian tribes.

What Is Tribal Sovereignty?

Tribal sovereignty in the United States refers to the inherent authority of Indian tribes to govern themselves within the borders of the United States of America. Indian tribes were sovereigns before the United States became a country, and many tribes entered into treaties with the U.S.

Indian tribes ceded millions of acres that make the United States what it is today; in return, tribes received the guarantee that the Federal government would protect the tribes’ right to govern their own people and their homelands for tribal cultures, religions, languages and ways of life.

Self-governance is the tribal authority to regulate their land, people and internal affairs. Indian tribes have a semi-independent position when they preserve their tribal relations as a separate people, with the powers of regulating their internal and social relations.

Federal agencies have developed consultation policies and interact with tribal nations on a government-to-government basis. Many State governments have adopted some form of this Federal policy and recognize tribal rights of self-governance and self-determination.

Tribal governments, much like State governments, are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of their citizens and their communities. Tribal governments are on an equal footing with State government and have a government-to-government relationship with the Federal government. The sovereignty of each entity necessitates a government-to-government relationship at the State/tribal level as well. All parties can achieve significant financial, social and governmental planning benefits by working together in a spirit of mutual respect and government-to-government cooperation.

Byway organizations should respect tribal sovereignty and tribal authority regarding byway development and planning. Byway organizations must respect this unique relationship between Federal, State and tribal governments.

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