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Washington in brief

Johnson comes 'home to the Senate'

Returning to work after the August recess of Congress, Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota said he has come ''home to the United States Senate.''

The long-time congressional Democrat, a member of the House of Representatives before his elevation to the Senate, observed that his powers of speech have not altogether recovered from the stroke-like symptoms of an intracranial hemorrhage that have kept him in therapy throughout the year.

''My doctors tell me that it will get there,'' he added. ''But my thoughts are clear and my mind is sharp and I'm here to be a voice for South Dakota in the Senate. With patience, persistence and faith, I have fought back, and my will to keep fighting for South Dakota is strong. My ability to think is paramount so I hope that now as I return to my office, people focus on my work more than how quickly I walk these days.''

Throughout his career in Congress, Johnson has represented the interests of South Dakota tribes and Indians nationally. His return to Washington, a week after a visit to South Dakota, occasioned an outpouring of support and encouragement on Capitol Hill, as well as numerous testimonials to his qualities and the courage of his comeback.

NAHASDA passage in the House includes Cherokee amendment

With the passage of the Native American Housing and Self-Determination Assistance Act reauthorization in the House of Representatives, attention turns to a companion bill in the Senate.

Wendy Helgamo, legislative director for the National American Indian Housing Council, said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. and chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, might introduce the Senate bill as early as the week of Sept. 17.

The House bill includes a provision that would prevent the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma from accessing the bill's federal housing funds. Rep. Melvyn Watt, D-N.C., offered the amendment because of a Cherokee referendum that effectively canceled the citizenship rights of the Cherokee freedmen, descendants of 19th century blacks enslaved by the Cherokee. Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith has maintained the tribe's case that the issue is Indian identity; members of the Congressional Black Caucus consider freedmen citizenship a racial issue.

The freedmen have been restored to tribal citizenship on the strength of a BIA administrative decision. Rep. Dan Boren, R-Okla., attached a compromise amendment that continues Cherokee tribal eligibility for funds at issue in the NAHASDA bill, pending tribal court clarification of the freedmens' status.

It was unclear at press time whether the Senate bill will address the substance of Watt's amendment.

Tribal energy resource agreement regulations are on the slow road to release

Regulations to implement tribal energy resource agreements, which are at the core of the Indian title of the national Energy Policy Act of 2005, have not been released yet despite a regular drumbeat of assertions in mid-July that they would be released in early August.

Nedra Darling, a BIA spokesman, said the BIA and its parent Interior Department have finished reviewing the regulations and sent them along to the Office of Management and Budget for OMB review. That is the regular process, Darling said. She declined to anticipate a release date.