John Tahusda, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, at a Bureau of Indian Affairs listening session in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 16, 2017. Photo: U.S. Indian Affairs
Opinion | Trust

Bryan Newland: Trump administration must explain need for new tribal land rules

Why is the Trump administration trying to make it harder for tribes to restore their homelands? Attorney Bryan Newland, a citizen of the Bay Mills Indian Community who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs during the Obama era, wonders whether a new agenda in Washington, D.C. aims to undermine the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934:
A revisionist view of the IRA may also explain why the Trump Administration is only consulting with western tribes regarding these proposed changes.

The Trump Administration has yet to provide any policy justification for changing the land-into-trust process. The proposed changes were not something Indian country has been demanding. Quite the opposite.

At last week’s meeting of the National Congress of American Indians, some Administration officials tried to sell these changes to tribal leaders as a helpful “streamlining” of the regulatory process. (Only in a George Orwell novel can increasing the number of bureaucratic hurdles be described as “streamlining,” but I digress).

But, earlier this year, Associate Deputy Secretary of the Interior James Cason described the need to do more to help local communities that oppose placing lands into trust for Indian tribes.

Before these regulations are officially proposed, the Trump Administration must explain its own understanding of the Indian Reorganization Act, and why these changes are necessary to advance its purpose. Tribal consultation is pointless if tribes don’t first understand the purpose behind this effort.

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