WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) delivered the following remarks at a committee hearing to receive testimony on the following bills:
· S. 2636, the Reservation Land Consolidation Act of 2016;
· S. 3216, a bill to repeal the act titled “An Act to confer jurisdiction on the state of Iowa over offenses committed by or against Indians on the Sac and Fox Indian Reservation”;
· S. 3222, the Columbia River In-Lieu and Treaty Fishing Access Sites Improvement Act; and
· S. 3300, the Hualapai Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 2016.
The hearing featured testimony from Mr. Larry Roberts, principal deputy assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior; the Honorable Damon Clarke, chairman of the Hualapai Tribe; the Honorable Lavern Jefferson, treasurer of the Meskwaki Tribal Council, the Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa; the Honorable W. Ron Allen, treasurer of the National Congress of American Indians; and Mr. Paul Lumley, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
Click here to watch Sen. Barrasso’s remarks.
Click here for more information on the witnesses’ testimony and to watch video of the entire hearing.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“Today the committee will examine four bills: S. 2636, the Reservation Land Consolidation Act of 2016; S. 3216, a bill to repeal the act entitled ‘An act to confer jurisdiction on the state of Iowa over offenses committed by or against Indians on the Sac and Fox Indian Reservation’; S. 3222, the Columbia River In-Lieu and Treaty Fishing Access Sites Improvement Act; and S. 3300, the Hualapai Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 2016.
“The bill, S. 2636, was introduced in March by Senator Tester.
“This bill would amend the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 to require the Secretary of the Interior to automatically take on-reservation land into trust for all federally recognized Indian tribes, provided they apply with the proper evidence of title.
“Also, this bill would codify certain provisions in current regulations used by the Secretary to review trust land applications from Indian tribes.
“While I think this bill was intended to help tribes work through bureaucratic red tape at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, I’m concerned in some ways, there may be some harm involved.
“A mandatory process for on-reservation trust land acquisitions could in fact inhibit a tribe’s ability to consolidate lands and could create significant litigation.
“By eliminating the notice to other governments – including Indian tribes – there is the potential to pit tribe against tribe in situations where lands are contested.
“For example, in my home state of Wyoming, this bill could have a detrimental impact on the Wind River Indian Reservation, where two tribes share a land base.
“This bill also has the potential to undermine collaboration between tribes and the surrounding communities, who can be important partners for economic development.
“The land into trust process certainly needs improvement and we have worked to that end, in this and for several Congresses.
“As we have heard in hearings and roundtables, this improvement requires changes that enhance transparency and promote cooperation.
“I hope to hear from the witnesses how we can achieve that and continue working with Senator Tester, to find solutions that are beneficial to tribal communities.
“The next bill, S. 3216, was introduced in July by Senator Grassley. Senator Ernst and Senator Leahy are co-sponsors.
“In 1948, Congress enacted a law conferring criminal jurisdiction on the state of Iowa over misdemeanor and non-major offenses committed by or against Indians on the Sac and Fox Indian Reservation.
“This 1948 act did not strip the Sac and Fox tribe of jurisdiction over the same types of offenses. For major crimes, the federal government retained criminal jurisdiction on the Sac and Fox Indian Reservation.
“The Sac and Fox tribe now seeks to repeal the 1948 act. Senator Grassley’s bill, S. 3216, would do just that.
“On April 8, 2016, the state of Iowa passed legislation tendering all relevant criminal jurisdiction held by the state to the United States, so that it may be returned to the tribe.
“We will hear from the witnesses how this bill will provide meaningful justice on the reservation and other benefits to the community.
“The bill, S. 3222, the Columbia River In-Lieu and Treaty Fishing Access Sites Improvement Act, was introduced on July 14, 2016 by Senator Merkley. Senators Wyden, Murray, and Cantwell have joined as co-sponsors.
“The bill, S. 3222, requires the BIA to assess the current condition of tribal fishing access facilities along the Columbia River.
“This bill also authorizes the BIA to contract its obligations under this bill to an Indian tribe or tribal organization under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.
“On September 8, 2016, Senators Flake and McCain introduced S. 3300, the Hualapai Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 2016. The bill would comprehensively settle all water rights claims for the Hualapai Tribe.
“This is a negotiated settlement of the tribe’s federal reserved water rights claim with the state of Arizona, the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the Salt River Project, the Freeport Minerals Corporation, and the United States.
“This bill authorizes $134,500,000 to construct a water infrastructure for the tribe, adds certain trust parcels to the reservation, and reallocates 4,000 acre-feet of the Central Arizona Project water to the tribe.”