A Samish Nation drum. Photo: Washington State Department of Transportation

House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples takes up tribal homelands legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States will be taking testimony this week on tribal homelands and tribal treaty legislation.

Four bills are on the agenda for the legislative hearing on Wednesday. They are:

H.R.733, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation Restoration Act
The bill returns nearly 12,000 acres to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. The tribe lost the land when the Bureau of Indian Affairs, between 1948 and 1959, sold allotments on the reservation in northern Minnesota despite lacking approval from all of the owners to do so.

H.R.1031, the Pala Band of Mission Indians Land Transfer Act
The bill requires the Bureau of Indian Affairs to acquire about 700 acres in southern California in trust for the Pala Band of Mission Indians. The tribe bought the land in San Diego County to protect Chokla, a sacred place also known as Gregory Mountain, from development.

H.R.1803, a bill to nullify the Supplemental Treaty Between the United States of America and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of Indians of Middle Oregon
The Warm Springs Tribes are asking Congress to repeal an agreement concluded on November 15, 1865. The agreement purports to limit the rights of the Warm Springs people but it has never been recognized or enforced as legitimate by either the tribe or the federal government. The Senate version of the bill, S.832, has already been advanced by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

H.R.2961, the Samish Indian Land Reaffirmation Act
The bill confirms that certain lands acquired for the Samish Nation are in trust. The tribe has repeatedly faced lengthy delays when seeking to restore its homelands through the land-into-trust process at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Tribal homelands bills like H.R.2961 typically enjoy bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives and are considered non-controversial in the chamber. They usually pass under a suspension of the rules, often without a recorded vote, regardless of which party is in charge.

The 116th Congress, which began in January under Democratic control, was following the same pattern up until President Donald Trump lashed out against tribal homelands legislation with a "racist" tweet last month. The last-minute social media post prompted the bills to be pulled from consideration by the House on May 8.

A week later, the chamber passed H.R.312, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, and H.R.375, a bill to clarify that all tribes can follow the land-into-trust process regardless of the date of their federal recognition. But, as expected, Republicans ditched both measures in droves as a result of the unexpected missive from the White House.

The hearing takes place at 2pm Eastern on Wednesday in Room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building. It will be webcast.

The House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States, which is part of the larger House Committee on Natural Resources, is chaired by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona). The ranking Republican is Rep. Paul Cook (R-California).

House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States Notice
Legislative Hearing (June 5, 2019)

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