The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs addressed a variety of bills on Wednesday, October 7 during the Committee’s business meeting and later in a legislative hearing. In total, nine bills were discussed.
During the business meeting, the SCIA passed two pieces of legislation: H.R. 487, a bill to allow the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma to lease or transfer certain lands; and S. 1579, the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience Act (the NATIVE Act).
Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) introduced H.R. 487 and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced S. 1579. H.R. 487 passed the House on September 16, 2015.
On Wednesday, both bills passed the SCIA by a voice vote as U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), committee chairman, highlighted what each bill seeks to accomplish.
“S. 1579 is intended to increase federal coordination of programs that support the tourism industry in Native communities,” said Chairman Barrasso in his opening remarks at the business meeting. “H.R. 487 responds to a need identified by the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. This bill releases any requirement for federal approval on the conveyance of fee simple land owned by the tribe to third parties. It does not impact any trust lands.”
Schatz addressed the committee to discuss the NATIVE Act: “I want to thank Senators Barrasso and Tester for holding this meeting and for moving the NATIVE bill through the committee expeditiously. And I want to thank all of the bipartisan sponsors, particularly the six colleagues on this committee, I thank you for your support and I look forward to working with you on getting it through to the Senate floor.”
Following the business meeting, seven more bills were addressed at the committee’s legislative hearing where the SCIA listened to testimony on each one.
All seven bills dealt with land into trust issues according to Barrasso’s opening remarks: “Today the committee will examine seven different bills. All the bills being considered today pertain to taking land into trust for a federally recognized tribe.”
The seven bills that were heard were as follows:
— S. 817, a bill to provide for the addition of certain real property to the reservation of the Siletz Tribe in the state of Oregon;
— S. 818, a bill to amend the Grand Ronde Reservation Act to make technical corrections, and for other purposes;
— S. 1436, a bill to require the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for certain Indian tribes, and for other purposes;
— S. 1761, a bill to take certain federal land located in Lassen County, California, into trust for the benefit of the Susanville Indian Rancheria, and for other purposes;
— S. 1822, a bill to take certain federal land located in Tuolumne County, California, into trust for the benefit of the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians, and for other purposes;
— S. 1986, a bill to provide for a land conveyance in the state of Nevada;
— H.R. 387, a bill to provide for certain land to be taken into trust for the benefit of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, and for other purposes.
The hearing featured testimony from Michael Smith, deputy director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior; Glen Casamassa, associate deputy chief for the National Forest System at the U.S. Forest Service; the Honorable Arlan Melendez, chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony; the Honorable Robert Martin, chairman of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians; and the Honorable Darren Daboda, chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians.