A view of the Standing
Rock Sioux Reservation, where a land consolidation agreement has been signed. Photo from Standing Rock Sioux
The House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs held a hearing this afternoon on five tribal bills.
Most of the attention went to H.R.5020,
the Indian Tribal Self-Determination in Land Consolidation Act. The bill authorizes the Interior Department to enter into
self-determination contracts with tribes so they can the Land Buy-Back
Program for Tribal Nations.
The Obama administration generally opposes the idea, saying it will be too costly. By law, the BIA can only spend $285 million -- or 15 percent of the $1.9 billion land consolidation fund -- on overhead, with the rest going towards acquisition of fractionated interests.
However, tribal leaders are pushing for self-determination contracts, saying they can more easily identify landowners who want to sell their interests. Members of Congress from both parties also support the idea.
The other four bills on the agenda didn't generate much discussion, although Larry Robers, the principal deputy assistant secretary at the BIA, continued to raise concerns about H.R.4534,
the Native American Children's Safety Act. The bill amends the Indian
Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act to require background
checks on all adults in a potential tribal foster home.
Roberts said the addition of "character" checks, in addition to criminal record checks, could be confusing and could slow down the placement of Indian children in foster homes.
Two bills affecting the Shoshone-Bannock
Tribes of Idaho were non-controversial. H.R.5049,
the Blackfoot River Land Exchange Act, resolves a land dispute while H.R.5050 repeals an antiquated law and returns a townsite that was carved out of the reservation in 1918 back to tribal control.
The last bill, H.R.3608,
the Grand Portage Band Per Capita Adjustment Act, was non-controversial as well. The bill exempts certain per capita payments that distributed to members of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Minnesota from state and federal taxation.
The hearing lasted about 1 hour and 22 minutes. Audio can be found on the Indianz.Com SoundCloud.
Hearing on H.R. 3608, H.R. 4534, H.R. 5020, H.R. 5049, and H.R. 5050 (July
House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native
Affairs hearing (7/29)