House Committee on Natural Resources: Full Committee Markup – June 8, 2022
Indian Country legislation ‘hijacked’ by Republicans on Capitol Hill
Thursday, June 9, 2022
Indianz.Com

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Democrats are vowing to return to work better prepared after they said Republicans “hijacked” a slew of Indian Country bills during a markup in the nation’s capital.

The House Committee on Natural Resources was set to advance no less than seven pro-tribal bills at the session on Wednesday morning. But Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona), the chair of the legislative panel with jurisdiction over Indian Country issues, adjourned the markup after the Republican minority dominated discussion with issues that were largely unrelated to the agenda.

“I thought that the agenda we had today, that had been discussed with the minority [was] not trivial, that each [bill] had substance and each one represented a constituency of a given member,” Grijalva said at the end of the meeting, which lasted about 90 minutes without any of the items being advanced.

“But, you know, crisis acting is dominating the day today, and strategic messaging is dominating the day,” Grijalva said of the Republicans who came to the meeting with a list of criticisms against the Democratic administration of President Joe Biden.

Raúl Grijalva
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona) serves as chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources in the 117th Congress. Photo courtesy House Committee on Natural Resources, Democrats

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), a longtime leader of the Congressional Native American Caucus, was more pointed with her assessment of the political drama. She blamed Republicans for derailing progress on an otherwise bipartisan bill to start addressing the genocidal legacy of Indian boarding schools that were funded, operated and supported by the United States.

“One of the most important is establishing a Truth and Healing Commission for the way Native American children in their families were attacked by the federal government in the past, causing death, causing intergenerational trauma,” said McCollum. She described H.R.5444, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act, as a “way for us to move forward with healing.”

But it isn’t just the boarding school bill that was derailed. The agenda for the markup included three other pieces of legislation that have already passed the U.S. Senate, including one led by a Republican.

“We carry these bills on behalf of these tribal nations and they have been listening to this debate being hijacked,” McCollum continued, “hijacked now to the point where it is the Republican campaign committee for the next election.”

Indianz.Com Audio: House Committee on Natural Resources markup 'hijacked' by Republican lawmakers

Grijalva only managed to bring up one item for consideration — H.R.263, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, a bill that has little to do with Indian Country — before Republicans started complaining about the cost of gasoline, rising levels of inflation and regulation of energy development. They said Democrats, as well as President Joe Biden, are failing to address issues that Americans are concerned about.

“You know, with the committee not having met to mark up legislation in more than two months, I’d hoped we’d be coming back today to consider bills to lower skyrocketing energy cost, addressing drought in the west, mitigating catastrophic wildfires, or maybe bringing immediate relief to any of the other myriad crises, plaguing our country and impacting millions of America,” said Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas), the highest-ranking Republican on the panel.

“That’s why — when I saw the big ticket item on today’s agenda was a bill to regulate big cat ownership — I wondered: maybe we should stop streaming our subscription services and turn on the local news broadcast,” Westerman said of H.R.263, whose subject matter is linked to a documentary that was once the most watched in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A slew of other Republicans raised similar concerns as amendments to H.R.263 were brought up during consideration of the bill. The GOP messages were repeated over and over again — after about 90 minutes, Grijalva decided to call it a day.

“There’s some bills that have been waiting two sessions to be heard and to be dealt with,” Grijalva observed. The three measures that already passed the Senate, for instance, are among those that tribes have been working on for several years.

“But we’ll return on Wednesday,” Grijalva said, promising another markup next week . “And the reason I say that is in anticipation of further crisis acting. We’ll be better prepared and better prepared to move this agenda to get it done.”

“So, I’m adjourning this meeting and we’ll reconvene Wednesday, 10 o’clock,” Grijalva added.

“Same time, same place,” he concluded.

The Indian Boarding School Era
H.R.5444, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act. Introduced on September 30, 2021. As of June 9, 2022: 62 Sponsors and Co-Sponsors, including 9 Republicans.

The bill requires the federal government to investigate the Indian boarding school era through a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States and a Truth and Healing Advisory Committee. A hearing before the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States took place on May 12, with tribal leaders and advocates expressing strong support for the inquiry.

Separately, the Department of the Interior is conducting its own investigation into the Indian boarding school era. But advocates say a separate inquiry is necessary in order to address the role of non-governmental entities, such as churches and religious groups, that received support from the federal government to run Indian schools.

Tribal Homelands and Treaties in Illinois
H.R.6063, Introduced on November 19, 2021, with two Republican co-sponsors, including the late Don Young of Alaska.

The bill authorizes the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to hear a land claim from the Miami Nation, headquartered in Oklahoma. The tribe has a treaty-based claim to 2.6 million acres in the state of Illinois. A hearing before the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States took place on April 27.

In the past, Congress has acted to authorize judicial review of tribal claims. A recent example includes the Quapaw Nation, whose leaders are now seeking the appropriation of $137.5 million to settle a trust asset mismanagement case that was proven in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Tribal Homelands in Washington
H.R.6181, the Samish Indian Nation Land Reaffirmation Act. Introduced on December 8, 2021. As of June 9, 2022: 17 Sponsors and Co-sponsors, including 2 Republicans.

The bill confirms the acquisition of 6.7 acres in trust for the Samish Nation. A hearing before the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States took place on April 27.

Advocates say H.R.6181 is needed because Congress has failed to address the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar. The ruling was issued more than 13 years ago and has led to more bureaucratic hurdles for tribes seeking to restore their homelands through the land-into-trust process.

Tribal Sovereignty
H.R.6707, the Advancing Equality for Wabanaki Nations Act. Introduced on February 11, 2022.

The bill ensures that the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Passamaquoddy Tribe [Indian Township | Pleasant Point] and the Penobscot Nation are treated in the same manner as other Indian nations in terms of law and policy. A land claim settlement currently imposes hurdles on the tribes when it comes to their sovereignty.

A hearing before the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States took place on March 31. Tribal leaders from Maine recounted the many ways in which their rights are limited — including in protection of their children.

Tribal Sovereignty in Oregon
S.314, the Klamath Tribe Judgment Fund Repeal Act. Introduced on February 12, 2021, after being considered in prior sessions of Congress.

The Klamath Tribes, headquartered in Oregon, are seeking to repeal a termination-era law that affects their trust funds and trust assets. A hearing before the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States took place on April 27.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approved S.314 at a business meeting on March 10. The bill subsequently passed the U.S. Senate on May 26 so approval by the House Committee on Natural Resources would put it much closer to becoming law.

Tribal Homelands in Oregon
S.559, Introduced on March 3, 2021, after being considered in prior sessions of Congress.

The bill addresses long-standing issues affecting the reservation of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in Oregon. A hearing before the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States took place on April 27.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approved S.559 at a business meeting on March 10. The bill subsequently passed the U.S. Senate on May 26. Approval by the House Committee on Natural Resources would put it much closer to becoming law.

Addressing Genocidal Legacies
S.789, the Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes Act or the RESPECT Act. Introduced on March 17, 2021, after being considered in multiple prior sessions of Congress.

The bipartisan bill repeals outdated racist and discriminatory laws that were imposed on tribes and their citizens. A hearing before the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States took place on April 27.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approved S.789 at a business meeting on March 24. The bill subsequently passed the U.S. Senate on May 27. Again, approval by the House Committee on Natural Resources would put it much closer to becoming law in the 117th Congress.

House Committee on Natural Resources Documents
Markup Notice (naturalresources.house.gov)
Markup of HR 263, HR 3081, HR 5444, HR 6063, HR 6181, HR 6337, HR 6427, HR 6707, HR 6734, HR 7002, HR 7025, HR 7075, HR 7612, S.314, S.559, S. 789 (docs.house.gov)

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AUDIO: House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States Legislative Hearing on H.R.5444 (May 16, 2022)
House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States Legislative Hearing on H.R.5444 (May 12, 2022)
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