Politics | Trust

Senate Indian Affairs Committee schedules trust reform hearing

Elouise Cobell and Barack Obama
The late Elouise Cobell meets President Barack Obama at the White House. December 8, 2010. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee will hold a hearing next week on trust reform.

Congress took a big interest in trust reform during the Clinton and Bush administrations due to the Cobell lawsuit and dozens of lawsuits filed by tribes. But since most of the cases have been settled by the Obama administration, the issue has been on the back burner in the last few years.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the chairman of the committee, will be changing that with the oversight hearing on July 8. He has said he will look to tribes to help come up with solutions to trust management at the Office of Special Trustee for American Indians and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“I recognize that the evolution of the federal-tribal relationship remains a work in progress," Barrasso said in his response to the State of Indian Nations in January. “I intend to lead these efforts in a continued government-to-government relationship, respecting the power of each Indian tribe to govern itself."

The National Congress of American Indians adopted a resolution at its annual meeting last October to support trust modernization at the Interior Department. During the group's mid-year session last week, tribes came together for a workgroup to develop a set of principles that will guide the effort.

Some of the principles are included in S.383, the Indian Trust Asset Reform Act. The bill was introduced by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), a member of the committee, to help tribes gain greater control of their trust assets.

Committee Notice:
Oversight Hearing on "A Path Forward: Trust Modernization and Reform for Indian Lands" (July 8, 2015)

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