March 30, 2011

Chairman Akaka Introduces Legislation to Fix Carcieri Supreme Court Ruling

Today U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, introduced a bill (S.676) to fix problems created by a Supreme Court ruling in Carcieri v Salazar which will lead to inequities in federal Indian policy if not corrected.
“This legislation is necessary for the United States government to fulfill its trust responsibility towards tribes and Native peoples,” said Chairman Akaka. “If Congress does not act, the Carcieri ruling will, in effect, create two classes of tribes – those who can have lands taken into trust and those who cannot. Creating this inequity runs counter to established federal Indian policy and Congressional intent in enacting the Indian Reorganization Act and subsequent legislation. Congress must step in now to preserve tribes’ ability to provide basic governmental services to their members.”
In February 2009, the Court ruled that the Secretary of the Interior does not have the authority to take lands into trust for a tribe that was not “under federal jurisdiction” when the Indian Reorganization Act was enacted in 1934. Chairman Akaka’s legislation would reaffirm the Secretary’s continuing authority to take lands into trust for all federally recognized tribes and would ratify trust acquisitions made by the Secretary for the past 75 years, as intended by Congress in the Indian Reorganization Act.
Chairman Akaka noted that the Indian Reorganization Act was enacted to reverse devastating federal policies that resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of acres of tribal lands. Akaka emphasized his legislation does not add any new rights for tribes to acquire trust lands, rather it merely reaffirms the authority the Secretary has had since 1934 to acquire trust lands for all tribes.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Conrad, Franken, Inouye, Johnson, Kerry, Tester, and Udall.
The full bill text is available here: LINK
Chairman Akaka’s statement in the Congressional Record is available here: LINK
Contact: Jesse Broder Van Dyke
Contact Phone: 202-224-7045