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American Indian Empowerment Act Introduced

WASHINGTON – A newly introduced piece of legislation promises stronger tribal control over Indian lands.

The American Indian Empowerment Act of 2011, H.R. 3532, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives December 1. It would allow a tribe to request that the title to its tribal land be taken out of trust and conveyed to the tribe while also ensuring such lands retain their Indian country status. It would also permit a tribe to lease its lands without having to gain approval from the Secretary of the Interior. And it would grant a tribe the ability to pass tribal laws that preempt applicable federal laws or regulations governing the tribe’s land.

“For far too long, the federal government has stood in the way of our Native people instead of empowering them,” said Rep. Don Young, chairman of the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs and a co-sponsor of the bill.

“This bill is going to change that by empowering America’s first people to use their lands the way they see fit,” he added in a statement. “For those who say this legislation is too ‘radical’, I say that that’s exactly what is needed. America’s tribes are sitting on valuable lands that contain countless resources, yet every time they try to develop that land, the Federal Government is standing in their way playing big brother.”

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Dan Boren, D-Oklahoma, co-sponsored the legislation, and he and Young will work together to pass it in a bipartisan fashion.

“I am pleased to work with Chairman Young on this bill, which would bring more sovereignty to tribes across the country,” said Boren in a statement. “The bill would strengthen the ability of our Native people to use their land as they choose, transferring responsibility from the Federal government to the people. I look forward to working with Chairman Young and the rest of the subcommittee to pass this bill and ensure our promises to all Native people are kept. ”

Young’s office said the bill was drafted after gathering input from tribal leaders across the country.