House Natural Resources Committee passes three tribal bills

A view of the area affected by the Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement Act. Photo from Freeport Minerals Corp / Planet Ranch Project Fact Sheet

The House Natural Resources Committee approved three bills of interest at a markup session on Wednesday.

The first bill was H.R. 4668, the Point Spencer Coast Guard and Public-Private Sector Infrastructure Development Facilitation and Land Conveyance Act. The bill conveys land to Bering Straits Native Corporation, an Alaska Native corporation.

The House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs held a hearing on the bill on September 10. It was largely non-controversial.

The second bill was H.R.4924, the Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement Act. It ensures that the Hualapai Tribe of Arizona and tribal allottees have sufficient access to water and it resolves a dispute that arose involving a nearby mining operation.

The House Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing on the bill on September 19. The Obama administration questioned a sovereign immunity provision and the deal remains controversial in Mohave County.

In a press release, however, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) said the bill "clearly has overwhelming support." A companion measure in the Senate has the backing of Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona).

The last bill was H.R.5086. It authorizes the study of a national trail to retrace the forced removal and return of the Ponca Tribe to Nebraska.

The trail would be named for Chief Standing Bear. His desire to return the tribe's homeland led to a landmark federal court case in 1879 that treated Native Americans as "persons within the meaning of the law."

“The story of the great Ponca Chief Standing Bear is one of strength, grace, and dignity in the most basic protection of human rights, and needs to be cherished by Americans of future generations, ” Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebraska) said in a press release. “I have long been supportive of establishing the Chief Standing Bear National Historic Trail that would honor his courage and great contribution to the freedom and civil liberties of this nation. I believe this legislation is an important first step toward establishing the trail, and I look forward to consideration before the House.”

All three bills await further consideration in the House.

Committee Notice:
Markup on H.R. 1561, H.R. 1785, H.R. 4220, H.R. 4668, H.R. 4924, H.R. 4979, H.R. 5086, H.R. 5179, H.R. 5699 (November 19, 2014)

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