Opinion: Nothing scary about land-into-trust fix
"Recent newspaper reports suggest that there is concern in Rhode Island, and perhaps elsewhere, that a Carcieri fix to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 will allow tribes to acquire trust land wherever they choose, resulting in tribes building Indian casinos willy-nilly outside their reservations and without appropriate input from the state. These reports appear designed to create unjustified fears of an Indian gaming boogey man hiding in a closet of the Carcieri fix.

In February, the Supreme Court interpreted the IRA as granting the secretary of the Interior authority to acquire land only for tribes under federal supervision when the IRA was enacted in 1934 – thereby creating “second class” tribes of those brought under federal authority after 1934.

As a result of this litigation, a development meant to provide homes for tribal members has sat uncompleted and deteriorating for many years. The Carcieri fix would simply put all federally recognized tribes on equal footing, creating an even playing field in matters of land acquisition. This would, in turn, allow the secretary of the Interior to acquire land from willing sellers to meet the needs of Indian tribes and their people. All peoples are entitled to peacefully acquire lands for homes, sustenance, and to pursue their social, cultural and economic development. Indian peoples are not excepted from this rule.

Contrary to some published assertions, the secretary sends notice of every proposed fee to trust land acquisition to state and local governmental entities which might be affected, requests their views, and considers those views in the trust acquisition process. Further, the secretary considers myriad additional factors set out in the Code of Federal Regulations including the need of the Indians for the additional land, the uses to which the land will be put, the impact on the tax base of the state and local governments, jurisdictional problems, and potential conflicts of land use which might arise. For off-reservation acquisitions the secretary also considers the distance from the tribe’s reservation and a business plan if the land is to be used for economic development. These considerations govern every secretarial acquisition of land for Indians under the IRA which would be subject to the pending Carcieri fix legislation. To suggest that the state and local governments have no input into the process is simply erroneous."

Get the Story:
G. William Rice: Nothing scary in a Carcieri fix (Indian Country Today 11/6)

Committee Notice:
Full Committee Legislative Hearing On H.R. 3742 And H.R. 3697 (November 4, 2009)

Land-Into-Trust Fix:
S.1703 | H.R.3697 | H.R.3742

Supreme Court Decision:
Syllabus | Opinion [Thomas] | Concurrence [Breyer] | Dissent [Stevens] | Concurrence/Dissent [Souter]

Supreme Court Documents:
Oral Argument Transcript | Briefs

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Audio: House Resources hearing on land-into-trust (11/4)
Obama administration supports land-into-trust fix (11/4)
Witness list for House hearing on land-into-trust (11/3)
House Resources hearing on land-into-trust fix (10/29)
Schwarzennegger opposes Lytton land-into-trust (10/26)
Byron Dorgan: Urgent fix to land-into-trust ruling (10/22)
Towns in Connecticut fight land-into-trust fix (10/14)
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Cole introduces fix to land-into-trust decision (10/2)
Land-into-trust bill lacks Republican sponsors (9/29)
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Dorgan introduces fix to land-into-trust ruling (9/24)