Press Release

NCEL and Native Americans in Philanthropy Announce Renewal of Partnership

June 28, 2024



NCEL Point of Contact

Dylan McDowell
Executive Director


NCEL and NAP are excited to announce the renewal of our partnership to continue enhancing collaboration among philanthropic funders, Tribal leaders, and state officials.  

This partnership was officially launched in 2023 with the recognition that one of the biggest barriers to stronger partnerships is the lack of knowledge and understanding by state elected officials about Tribes. Through NAP and NCEL’s partnership, we have brought together our national networks to develop educational programs to highlight Tribal climate and conservation efforts that foster stronger connections between philanthropic funders, Tribes, and state officials. 

Reflecting on Efforts from 2023

Over the past year, NAP and NCEL worked together to increase understanding, establish foundations for partnerships, and saw legislation advance. Below are just a few of the outcomes from our efforts in 2023:

  • Tribal Relations 101 for State Legislators – July 11: This was the first in a series of learning opportunities for state legislators. This session helped state legislators build a foundation of knowledge around how states can best center Tribal priorities in policymaking and the responsibility states have as treaty partners to uphold Tribal sovereignty. It was one of NCEL’s largest virtual events to date showcasing the degree of legislator interest.
  • Indigenizing Environmental Policy – August 11: This was the first plenary session at NCEL’s National Forum. The session discussed and reflected on the first step towards effective policy—relationship building. Attendees walked away with an understanding of different ways to approach policy in partnership with Tribal Nations to co-develop environmental policy.
  • Policy Pathways to Land Back – November 16: This session highlighted efforts to restore ownership of ancestral homelands to Tribes through federal, state, and private land transfers, including fee title transactions. State legislators gained insights into meaningful ways to support the Land Back movement and become engaged in policy solutions that promote Indigenous knowledge.

Through these three learning events, we saw an increase in policy movement across the country. NCEL and NAP also met 1:1 with five legislators and Tribal leaders to support their interest in state/Tribal relations as a direct result of the Tribal Relations 101 learning series.

  • At a Glance: In 2024, 19 states considered 44 pieces of legislation related to improving State/Tribal relations and elevating Tribal sovereignty. This includes innovative and groundbreaking legislation from New Mexico and Maine.
    • New Mexico enacted S.B. 169, which prioritizes state allocation of Land and Water Conservation Funds (LWCF) for the highest-need, highest-impact projects and removes barriers preventing Tribal nations and rural communities from seeking funding since Tribes are not currently directly eligible for LWCF grants.
    • Maine enacted LD 2007, which makes substantial changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act to help Wabanaki Nations (Passamaquoddy Tribe, Penobscot Nation, Mi’kmaq Nation, and Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians) in Maine exercise their inherent right to self govern, as all other federally recognized tribes in the United States are able to do under Federal Indian Law.

What’s Ahead for 2024

Throughout 2024, NCEL and NAP are excited to continue offering learning opportunities to bridge gaps between state legislators, Tribes, and philanthropic funders. NCEL and NAP will also work to build out resources and policy options for state legislators. 

Upcoming Events

  • Tribal Relations 101 for State Legislators: Back by popular demand, this was the second annual Tribal Relations 101 learning series aimed at lawmakers, philanthropic entities, NGO staff, and the public. This session helps build a foundation of knowledge around how states can best center Tribal priorities in policymaking.
  • NCEL’s National Forum will feature NAP staff and a NAP Native Youth Grantmaker, who will offer key perspectives to legislators on topics related to Land Back, and conservation as a tool for justice. 
  • Fall Learning Series: The learning series will continue in the Fall with another session highlighting state Offices of Strategic Partnership, Buffalo as a Climate Solution, and ocean conservation policy at the nexus of State and Tribal jurisdiction.

Resource Creation

NCEL is working on creating a resource hub for state legislators on state and Tribal relations in environmental policy. This will be a new resource hub on the NCEL site to combine past learning series events, fact sheets, policy options and current state legislation, as well as be the home to the upcoming policy toolkit.

This year, NCEL and NAP will release a policy toolkit highlighting topics such as Land Back, co-management and co-stewardship, Offices of Strategic Partnership, and restoring relationships. 

Partnerships and Policy in Action

State legislator and philanthropic interest in State/Tribal policy is gaining momentum. This partnership is core to building a strong foundational understanding of key governance topics among decision-makers and ensuring that public-private partnerships are equipped to support policy initiatives that emerge. 


Native Americans in Philanthropy promotes equitable and effective philanthropy in Native communities. With more than 30 years of experience in the field, we work closely with our counterpart organizations advocating for Tribal Nations. 

Created by and for state legislators, the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that organizes over 1,300 environmentally-committed state legislators from all 50 states and both parties. NCEL provides venues and opportunities for lawmakers to share ideas and collaborate on environmental issues.