Larry Roberts, the acting assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, left, shakes hands with Ron Allen, the treasurer of the National Congress of American Indians at the organization's mid-year conference in Spokane, Washington, on June 30, 2016. Photo from NCAI / Twitter
The Bureau of Indian Affairs has taken 416,000 acres into trust since President Barack Obama came on board, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said on Wednesday. The agency hopes to hit 500,000 acres before Obama leaves office in January 2017, Jewell told the National Congress of American Indians at its mid-year conference in Spokane, Washington. "These lands will make your nations whole again," Jewell said on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. Tribes complained that the land-into-trust process nearly ground to a halt during the Bush administration. Efforts have picked up since January 2009 and, earlier this year, the BIA approved the largest single acquisition in history -- 90,000 acres for Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico. In hopes of ensuring that tribes wont be left out in the dark whoever comes on board in just a few months, the BIA released a new Fee-to-Trust Handbook on Thursday. Larry Roberts, the leader of the agency, said the changes will help streamline the process. “After hearing from tribal leaders, we have taken another step in reducing lengthy and burdensome processes that hinder tribal governments in more fully utilizing their lands for the betterment of their people,” Roberts said in a press release. “The BIA’s revisions to its Fee-to-Trust Handbook provide tribes with greater flexibility in submitting land-into-trust and reservation proclamation requests while reducing the time spent to process them.” One key change allows tribes to combine their land-into-trust and reservation proclamation applications. Previously, they had to wait until their land was placed in trust before seeking a proclamation.
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