Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, is sponsoring a bill to address a blood quantum issue affecting certain Indian lands in Oklahoma. Photo: National Congress of American Indians

Republican-sponsored Indian bills are back on agenda for key House committee

The House Committee on Natural Resources is set to advance three Republican-sponsored Indian bills at a markup session.

The bills were originally due for action late last month. But the committee had to postpone the session due to scheduling conflicts in the House.

Everything looks like its back on track for the markup on Wednesday. A total of five items are on the agenda, with three of interest in Indian Country.

Blood quantum in Oklahoma

H.R.2606, the Stigler Act Amendments of 2017.
• Sponsor: Rep. Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma
Markup Memo

H.R.2606 amends the Stigler Act of 1947 by removing a blood quantum requirement for lands owned by citizens of the Cherokee Nation, the Chickasaw Nation, the Choctaw Nation, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the Seminole Nation.

The House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs took testimony on the bill on October 4, 2017, with the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes calling on Congress to pass the bill in order to keep more Indian lands in Indian hands. Citizens of other tribes in the United States are not subject to the same one-half blood quantum requirement.

Federal recognition

H.R.3744, the Tribal Recognition Act.
• Sponsor: Rep. Rob Bishop, Republican of Utah
Markup Memo

H.R.3744 strips the Bureau of Indian Affairs of its federal recognition powers. Congress -- and only Congress -- will decide which petitioning groups are worthy of a government-to-government relationship with the United States.

The House subcommittee took testimony on the bill on September 26, 2017, with the Trump administration expressing no objections to the premise of the measure even though tribes across the country have spoken out against it.

Indian health care

H.R.5874, the Restoring Accountability in the Indian Health Service Act (RAISE Act) of 2018.
• Sponsor: Rep. Kristi Noem, Republican of South Dakota
Markup Memo

H.R.5874 makes a number of changes at the Indian Health Service in hopes of making the agency more accountable to tribes.

The House subcommittee did not hold a hearing on H.R.5874 during the 115th Congress but it did take testimony on a prior version of the bill during the last session. A number of tribes, mainly those in the Great Plains, where quality of care issues have gone unresolved for years, have expressed support for the measure.

Next steps

Once the bills clear the markup, they can advance to the full House for consideration, putting them one step closer to becoming law. But while all three measures are sponsored by Republicans, earlier versions have failed to advance in prior sessions of Congress.

The most notable of the group is the Stigler Act Amendments. Though Republicans and the George W. Bush administration supported the removal of the one-half blood quantum requirement more than a decade ago, the energy industry in Oklahoma derailed the bill essentially on the eve of its passage.

The markup session takes place at 10:15am Eastern on Wednesday morning. It will be broadcast on the committee's website.

House Committee on Natural Resources Notice:
Full Committee Markup (June 13, 2018)

Related Stories:
House committee set to advance Republican-sponsored Indian bills (May 22, 2018)