indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
The University of Tulsa College of Law - Master's in Indian Law
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Trust reform bill gets another hearing
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs today is holding its third hearing in two years on a complex and somewhat controversial bill to reform how Indian land is inherited.

With some simple goals in mind, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), the chairman of the committee, has brought together a coalition of federal and tribal interests. But finding a way to reduce fractionation of Indian lands, while at the same time protecting the rights of tribal members and tribal governments, has proven a tough task.

The heart of the American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2003 is the creation of a uniform probate code. The Bush administration and tribal leaders agree that a single standard will eliminate bureaucratic hurdles and make the process simpler to understand. Currently, Indian allottees are subject to more than 30 state probate laws, creating confusion and leading to disparate treatment.

Various drafts of S.550, however, have included proposals that have alarmed both the federal government and Indian Country. Chief among them is the creation of a new class of land called passive trust for those who have documented Indian ancestry but cannot meet the membership requirements of a tribe. The Department of Interior would have a lessened responsibility for land held in this status.

At a hearing in May, the BIA and several inter-tribal organizations testified against the passive trust concept. Today, the Indian Land Working Group will again criticize the proposal as "purely litigation-driven" and one that lets the trustee off the hook to the detriment of Indian beneficiaries.

A draft of the S.550 circulated by Campbell's staff last week drops the passive trust concept in favor of provisions that would enable lineal descendants and "family members" to inherit Indian land. But the draft adds a new section addressing unclaimed property. Tribal leaders rejected a similar proposal the Bush administration advanced last year as part of the failed tribal-federal task force on trust reform.

The section, which Campbell is considering adding to the bill, would allow the federal government to purchase land owned by beneficiaries whom they cannot locate. The BIA would be authorized to deposit the money in an "unclaimed property" trust account and would be allowed to use the interest off the account to pay for the "administrative costs" of managing the Indian trust.

Some tribes support a reasonable unclaimed property program. But they say the BIA must make a genuine effort to obtain current information about Indian beneficiaries. The new section would require the BIA to post public notice before purchasing property. The BIA would have the option to sell the property to a tribe.

The draft circulated last week also included provisions to allow the "partitionment" of Indian allotments. The BIA would be allowed to sell partitions of "highly fractionated" lands if requested by a tribe or a landowner.

Partitionment would reduce fractionation of a single parcel by removing particular sections. But in the past, it has led to a widespread loss of Indian-owned lands, particularly in eastern Oklahoma.

In 2000, Congress passed amendments to the Indian Land Consolidation Act (ILCA) that tribal leaders say has led to widespread fear among landowners. The definition of "Indian" in the amendments prohibits lineal descendants with Indian blood but who aren't enrolled from inheriting land.

Due to numerous complaints, BIA hasn't "certified" the 2000 amendments. In May, a BIA official warned that Secretary Gale Norton would do that if the probate reform bill can't be passed by Congress this year or the next.

S.550 would again amends ILCA, which was first passed in 1983. The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down certain provisions of the law as unconstitutional because it allowed the BIA to consolidate Indian land without just compensation.

Today's hearing starts at 10 a.m. A live video feed can be accessed at http://indian.senate.gov.

Relevant Documents:
Witness List (October 15, 2003)

Get the Bill:
New S.550 Draft | S.550 As Introduced

Relevant Links:
Trust Reform, NCAI - http://www.ncai.org/main/pages/
issues/other_issues/trust_reform.asp

Office of Special Trustee - http://www.ost.doi.gov
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com

Related Stories:
Senate panel to hold hearing on probate bill (10/14)
Tribes focus energies on 'core' trust reform issues (05/30)
On fractionation, little progress in decades (05/09)
Indian land bill draws complaints from all sides (05/08)
Congress tackles trust land reform bill (5/6)
Bush land program called inadequate (5/6)
Accounting of trust land pushed (5/6)
Judge upholds ongoing trust relationship (04/29)
Bush administration turns to Congress on trust (04/04)
Appropriators question historical accounting plan (03/13)
From BIA to BITAM to OST, Swimmer lands on top (01/16)
Passive trust faces test in new Congress (11/25)
Senate approves omnibus Indian package (11/21)
Bill offers 'extinguishment' of trust fund claims (11/06)
Legislation to create a 'passive' Indian trust (10/18)
Take a pass on passive Indian trust (10/18)
Trust reform legislation sidetracked (10/17)
Tribes enter 'new phase' in trust reform battle (10/03)
Sparks fly at trust reform meeting (9/27)
Here comes BITAM all over again (9/27)
Bush proposal to take 'unclaimed' Indian land (09/26)
Rift widens on trust reform negotiations (9/12)
Tribes scrap talks on trust standards (9/11)
Tribal leaders debate trust reform bill (05/23)
Interior considering a limited trust fund (3/15)



Copyright 2000-2003 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
First Lady Michelle Obama shares story of hope with Indian school (5/26)
Remarks by First Lady Michelle Obama at Santa Fe Indian School (5/26)
Gary Davis of NCAIED joins Small Business Administration council (5/26)
Arne Vainio: A mother's gift carried me through many life journeys (5/26)
Native Sun News: Tribes score big in fights against energy projects (5/26)
Lakota Country Times: Education Secretary hears from Pine Ridge (5/26)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Ending Whiteclay beer sales starts at home (5/26)
Vi Waln: Rosebud Sioux youth lead efforts to bring relatives home (5/26)
Gyasi Ross: Drug epidemic sweeping through Native communities (5/26)
Jacqueline Keeler: Shameful and skewed poll on racist NFL name (5/26)
Interview with Melvin Monette about Cobell scholarship program (5/26)
Auction house in France won't stop sale of sacred tribal property (5/26)
United Keetoowah Band installs new leader after impeachment (5/26)
Kewa Pueblo builds new community around historic trading post (5/26)
Eastern Cherokee elder translates 'Charlotte's Web' into Tsalagi (5/26)
Puyallup Tribe works to keep language alive for new generations (5/26)
Iowa Tribe offers free play on poker website ahead of full launch (5/26)
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe offers gaming options closer to home (5/26)
Kaw Nation receives national award for tribal gaming initiatives (5/26)
Indian Health Service reform efforts gaining steam on Capitol Hill (5/25)
Indian Health Service announces more hires at troubled hospital (5/25)
Keepseagle attorneys open application process for $38M in grants (5/25)
Three tribes enter cooperative agreements for buy-back program (5/25)
New leader selected for HUD's Office of Native American Programs (5/25)
Indian relay racers gear up for event hosted by Muckleshoot Tribe (5/25)
Cronkite News: Tribes seek return of property up for sale in France (5/25)
Native Sun News: Anti-suicide effort incorporates tribal traditions (5/25)
Lakota Country Times: Pine Ridge youth showcase film projects (5/25)
Mark Trahant: Native vote victory for Tawna Sanchez in Oregon (5/25)
Brandon Ecoffey: Lakota people come together in times of need (5/25)
Editorial: Tribes must come up with plan for return of Black Hills (5/25)
John McCoy: Disenrollment and blood quantum are not our way (5/25)
Adrian Jawort: Addressing race relations and healing in Montana (5/25)
Fort Peck Tribes oppose new directive on transgender students (5/25)
Leader of United Keetoowah Band ousted through impeachment (5/25)
Agua Caliente Band launches software development company (5/25)
Sen. Barrasso to chair platform committee for GOP convention (5/25)
Cowlitz Tribe welcomes discussions with opponent over casino (5/25)
Little Traverse Bay Bands open doors to Class II gaming facility (5/25)
Tuolumne Band celebrates 15th birthday with casino expansion (5/25)
Former Winnebago Tribe casino employee denies theft charge (5/25)
Proposed rule brings LGBT equality to tribal housing programs (5/24)
Chairman of Quapaw Tribe endorses Democrat Hillary Clinton (5/24)
Appropriations bill blocks new federal recognition regulation (5/24)
Native American Children's Safety Act clears final Hill hurdle (5/24)
9th Circuit won't rehear Tohono O'odham Nation gaming case (5/24)
Lakota Country Times: Army promises return of tribal children (5/24)
Native Sun News: New business sprouts up at Wounded Knee (5/24)
Mark Trahant: Tulalip citizen lands role in Democratic platform (5/24)
Brandon Ecoffey: Pine Ridge unites for search of missing men (5/24)
Men who went missing found dead on Pine Ridge Reservation (5/24)
Billy Mills: Flawed poll can't justify use of team's racist mascot (5/24)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.