A view of the land-into-trust site, also known as Camp 4, in Santa Barbara County, California. Photo courtesy Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians
Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians welcomes action on homelands bill
The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians is celebrating movement on a bill that helps the tribe prepare for a brighter future in southern California.

H.R.1491, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Land Affirmation Act, was approved at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs business meeting on Wednesday afternoon. The bill ratifies a decision to place about 1,400 acres in Santa Barbara County in trust for the tribe.

“The unanimous support of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs demonstrates that good faith cooperation between tribes and local governments will be recognized with swift and decisive action in Washington,” Chairman Kenneth Kahn said.

H.R.1491 incorporates a historic agreement between the tribe and the county. Though the development came only after years of "resistance," as Kahn told the committee in April, it requires the dismissal of a lawsuit which challenges the land-into-trust application for the site, known locally as Camp 4.

The tribe plans to use the land for housing, governmental, economic development and other purposes. Kahn said the intergovernmental agreement authorizes the construction of 143 homes and a tribal meeting hall and administrative building.

"The rest of the land will be open space, remain in agricultural production, or be actively managed to maximize environmental benefit for the region," the chairman said during testimony on the bill on April 25.

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Business Meeting - H.R. 1491, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Land Affirmation Act of 2017 - June 13, 2018

Action on the committee level represents significant progress for the bill. It already passed the House so it only needs to clear the Senate before it can be signed into law.

“We look forward to passage of H.R.1491 by the full Senate in the near future,” Kahn said on Wednesday.

The tribe purchased Camp 4 in 2010 and submitted a land-into-trust application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in July 2013, according to documents maintained by the county. A year later, the BIA published an environmental assessment and said it was going to acquire the land.

The decision, however, was never finalized amid opposition in the county, which included a series of administrative appeals and, later, a lawsuit in federal court.

But on January 19, 2017, the final full day of the Obama administration, the BIA approved the application. The land was placed in trust the next day, according to the agency.

Even if H.R.1491 does not become law, the tribe could still complete the land-into-trust process. But appeals from other opponents could tie up development for years so the bill provides stronger assurances for both the tribe and the BIA.

"Trust acquisitions are critical to rebuilding tribal homelands, particularly when it comes to tribes being able to house their members and provide for their well being," Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said on Wednesday.


Tribal homelands
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.

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

Related Stories:
Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians inches forward with homelands bill (June 11, 2018)
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)