indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
Dynamic Homes
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Probate reform bill heads to Senate for vote
Thursday, January 29, 2004

The chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Wednesday said he expects quick passage of a bill that seeks to reform one aspect of the Indian trust.

After several iterations, the American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004 was finally cleared for a vote on the Senate floor. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), the sponsor of S.1721, said the bill was "truly a cooperative effort" between Indian Country and the federal government.

"I hope we can continue to work together on other aspects of trust reform," Campbell said at a brief business committee meeting yesterday morning when the bill was approved without dissent.

S.1721 represents more than a year's worth of work on a proposal that was heavily criticized when it first came up for discussion. Back in May 2002, tribal leaders said it failed to resolve a critical issue: whether lineal descendants, or Indians who are not tribal members, can inherit land.

The revision that followed didn't fare any better. Working with some tribal attorneys, Senate staff developed a new status of land ownership called "passive trust" to address the lineal descendant issue.

But since the concept diminished the federal government's trust responsibility, several national Indian organizations and tribes found it less than appealing.

So by the time the bill made it back to the committee in May 2003, there was plenty to complain about. This time, though, the Bush administration joined the chorus of critics against passive trust.

"My morning started out pretty good until I came here," Campbell said after the barrage.

The situation started to look brighter after Campbell brought together a number of organizations, including the National Congress of American Indians and the Indian Land Working Group, and the Department of Interior to revise S.1721 another time. What emerged in October 2003 was a bill that tribes said was a major improvement.

The version that passed yesterday follows a draft that Campbell's staff circulated last week. There are a number of important changes, notably, the clarification of the definition of "Indian" to include lineal descendants and close family members, and provisions to allow individual Indians, tribes and the federal government to consolidate land parcels with multiple owners.

At its core, the bill creates a uniform probate standard for Indian Country. Currently, Indian landowners are subject to 33 different state laws, making estate planning difficult if not impossible.

To help change that, the bill authorizes grants to help Indian landowners develop wills. Tribes and legal aid groups, including non-profits, would be eligible for the grants.

The success of the consolidation provisions in the bill depend largely on the dollar amount the federal government is willing to commit to reducing fractionation. Campbell said yesterday he hopes the Bush administration will take positive steps in the 2005 budget, which is being released next week. Senate staff have been suggesting $70 million over the next five years.

A BIA official once told Campbell it would take billions to buy back all the fractionated interests. The figure was backed by independent observers.

Currently, S.1721 does not have a counterpart in the House. Campbell said he expects the House to act sometime this year.

Get the Bill:
S.1721 [Note: As introduced. A substitute amendment was adopted yesterday but is not yet available via Thomas.] | S.1721 Draft (January 2004)

Relevant Documents:
Witness List (October 15, 2003)

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:
Tribes back improvements in probate reform bill (10/16)
Panel debating reform bill a third time (10/15)
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...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Facility in Montana set to house Indian inmates (8/27)
Bill John Baker: Cherokee Nation puts youth to work for summer (8/27)
Gabe Galanda: Academia won't tackle tribal disenrollment issues (8/27)
Another pipeline spills saltwater on reservation in North Dakota (8/27)
Navajo voters oust incumbent president Ben Shelly in primary (8/27)
Former IHS information security officer convicted for child porn (8/27)
Native Sun News: Tribes take on Air Force over expansion plan (8/26)
Charles Trimble: Pine Ridge -- the Hollywood of Indian Country (8/26)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Iroquois on both sides for War of 1812 (8/26)
Heather Kendall-Miller: GOP candidate a threat to Native rights (8/26)
Fired Oglala Sioux Tribe police officer indicted for taser incident (8/26)
Sen. Jon Tester to hold session on trafficking in Indian Country (8/26)
Hoopa Valley Tribe takes action due to large number of arsons (8/26)
Non-recognized tribe in Texas hails ruling in eagle feather case (8/26)
Jodi Lee Spotted Bear: Supporting Native language immersion (8/26)
Proposal filed for Wampanoag language public charter school (8/26)
Gila River Indian Community mourns loss of first female leader (8/26)
Jose Barreiro: Indigenous leaders hold historic meeting in Cuba (8/26)
Tribes use reservations to restore rare and endangered species (8/26)
Rival factions unite in takeover attempt within Chukchansi Tribe (8/26)
Darlene Miller seeks to be first female Seneca Nation president (8/26)
7th Circuit bars tribal jurisdiction in Indian payday loan dispute (8/26)
Law school in Colorado sets conference on sovereign immunity (8/26)
Mississippi Choctaw family believes same person behind deaths (8/26)
Cherokee Nation to break ground on casino on Indian allotment (8/26)
Stillaguamish Tribe finally secures reservation status for casino (8/26)
Mashantucket Tribe to open retail concourse at casino on Friday (8/26)
Opinion: Predatory gaming companies exploit tribes and patrons (8/26)
Caesars Entertainment debuts $442M urban casino in Baltimore (8/26)
Tim Giago: Farewell to my childhood friend Eugene Long Soldier (8/25)
Mark Trahant: Tapping the power of social media for Native vote (8/25)
Native Sun News: Laguna Pueblo still affected by uranium mine (8/25)
Oliver Semans: Seeing the light on Native voting rights struggle (8/25)
John Hopkins: Navajo Nation Council delegate makes bad choice (8/25)
James Mills: Non-Indian firm helps tribes create stronger nations (8/25)
Navajo voters to narrow field of 17 candidates for president's job (8/25)
Judge Humetewa hands down sentence in Indian child abuse case (8/25)
Scientists publish lengthy book based on study of Kennewick Man (8/25)
Rival tribe spends big in fight over Tohono O'odham Nation casino (8/25)
Eastern Cherokees resist Catawba Nation casino in North Carolina (8/25)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe seeking investors for Class II facility (8/25)
WUWM: Menominee Nation still waiting for off-reservation casino (8/25)
Editorial: Vote on Enterprise Rancheria Class III gaming compact (8/25)
Native Sun News: Indian farmers question Keepseagle attorneys (8/22)
Brandon Ecoffey: Navajo golfer Rickie Fowler is a fast-rising star (8/22)
Oglala Sioux leader and educator Gerald One Feather passes on (8/22)
Indigenous Fine Arts Market kicks off big weekend in New Mexico (8/22)
Gyasi Ross: Native people are all too familiar with police brutality (8/22)
Melanie Yazzie: Border town violence connected to colonization (8/22)
Ray Young Bear: No tribal member wants to be known by R-word (8/22)
Washington Post: Editorial board will no longer use R-word 'slur' (8/22)
Matthew Murguia: The facts are clear on Washington NFL mascot (8/22)
Three Indian artists selected as NEA's National Heritage Fellows (8/22)
President of Navajo Nation bans smoking in executive buildings (8/22)
Recently recognized Tejon Tribe to close enrollment next month (8/22)
Cowlitz Tribe pays $1.4M for building to be used as medical office (8/22)
Nooksack Tribe must answer to casino loan lawsuit in state court (8/22)
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.