The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians land-into-trust site, also known as Camp 4, in Santa Barbara County, California. More information about the tribe's plans for the land can be found at tribalhousinginitiative.org. Photo courtesy Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.
Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians inches forward with homelands bill
Another tribal homelands bill is moving forward on Capitol Hill after years of bitter battles.

H.R.1491, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Land Affirmation Act, ratifies a decision to place about 1,400 acres in trust for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. The tribe plans to use the land for housing and economic development but also to build a brighter future for its people in southern California.

"Tribes, we look at land in a way that is perpetual. When we set foot on land ... we look into the future, hundreds of hundreds of year into the future," Chairman Kenneth Kahn said in testimony on the bill in April. "It's vital for self-determination and for the strength of our customs and traditions for many, many generations."

The bill passed the House last November under a suspension of the rules, meaning it was considered non-controversial. But action came only after officials in Santa Barbara County, long hostile to the tribe, were prodded into negotiations by key members of Congress more than three years ago.

“H.R.1491 would reaffirm the Secretary of the Interior’s decision to place 1,427.28 acres of California land in trust for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, resolving years of litigation regarding the Secretary’s decision," said Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, during the April 25 hearing on the measure.

“After negotiating over the county’s concerns, the tribe and the local county of Santa Barbara have also entered into an effective memorandum of agreement. This MOA provides for the mitigation of potential impacts once the land is in trust," Hoeven added.

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs - Hearing on California Tribal Homelands Bills - April 25, 2018

Hoeven's committee is now holding a business meeting on Wednesday to take action on the bill. Approval would mean it can be considered by the Senate, putting the tribe one step closer to its goal.

Since the start of the 115th Congress in January 2017, the Senate has fallen behind it comes to tribal homelands. The House, on the other hand, has passed six such bills.

In addition to H.R.1491, the list follows:
H.R.1306, the Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act. Provisions in the bill place about 17,519 acres in trust for the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians and about 14,,472 acres in trust for the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians while others address land management issues for the Coquille Tribe.
H.R.597, the Lytton Rancheria Homelands Act. The bill places about 940 acres in trust for the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians in northern California.
H.R.1404, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Land Conveyance Act. The bill places about 40 acres in Arizona in trust for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.
H.R.1532, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Land Reaffirmation Act. The bill confirms that lands already held in trust for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians cannot be litigated.

Of the six bills, only H.R.1306 also has passed the Senate. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law in January.


Wednesday's business meeting takes place at 2:30pm Eastern in Room 628 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building. H.R.1491 is the only item on the agenda.

The meeting will be followed immediately by an oversight hearing on "at risk" Indian programs.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice:
Business Meeting to consider H.R. 1491, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Land Affirmation Act of 2017 (June 13, 2018)

Prior Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice:
Legislative Hearing to Consider H.R. 597 & H.R. 1491 (April 25, 2018)

Related Stories:
Tribal homelands hit a wall under President Trump after historic Obama era (April 25, 2018)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs takes up tribal homelands legislation (April 25, 2018)
Tribes secure hearing on homelands legislation amid drama on Capitol Hill (April 18, 2018)
Lawmakers advance another tribal land bill as Indian Country braces for change (November 28, 2017)
House approves land-into-trust bills for tribes amid concerns about process (July 14, 2017)