Letter to the Editor: From NCAI President Jefferson Keel and NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens
Tribal Leadership Unified on Land Recovery, A Moral Obligation of the United States
January 30, 2018
The Department of the Interior has embarked upon changes to Federal Indian policy that could negatively impact our tribal nations for generations to come.
Interior’s draft regulations on Tribal Land recovery would increase considerably the barriers standing in the way of tribal sovereignty, and give an increased role to state and local governments in deciding whether tribes are eligible to claim and restore lands that have been stolen from us.
We strongly urge tribal leaders to attend consultation sessions in your area to demonstrate Indian country’s unified resolve to oppose these regulations and equitably restore the land base of every tribal nation.
(Full list of consultation sessions are also listed below)
Interior’s draft regulations are built on a mistaken assumption that tribes generally have adequate reservation land bases. Tribal nations must present the facts, and share their stories and histories at these consultation sessions.
Many tribes have only scattered parcels; many have extremely small or diminished reservations or are entirely landless; many are geographically land-locked by surrounding federal lands, or mountains, or bodies of water; and many have important cultural resources or population service areas that are located off-reservation. Most have a reservation insufficient as a viable land base for their people.
Creating a heavy presumption against taking land into trust would have a devastating impact on tribal nations and was clearly not the intent of Congress in the Indian Reorganization Act.
The new regulations are contrary to every goal of the Trump Administration to decrease federal regulatory burdens. Moreover, they would inject gaming matters into the broader land-into-trust process, which is prohibited by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. This is wrong, and we need to make our voices heard.
Gaming only occurs on trust lands acquired after 1988 and under very limited statutory conditions – these limited conditions should not be driving the tribal land recovery process which is critical to restoring our tribal nations.
It is particularly troubling that this is taking place while the Senate has yet to confirm an Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. The Assistant Secretary is primarily responsible for carrying out the Department’s trust responsibility to tribal nations and helping to set this Administration’s policy agenda for Indian Affairs.
We cannot have confidence in policies developed while key political appointees remain unconfirmed.
Land acquisition is the most important power that the Secretary of the Interior has to assist tribal nations and peoples. Congress intended to redress the effects of land loss and its devastating impacts on our communities, economies, cultures, and tribal government authority.
NCAI, NIGA, and all tribes will work together to protect the legal responsibility and the fundamental moral obligation of the United States to restore tribal lands.
For additional information, please see the NCAI’s webinar on Fee-To-Trust Consultations video to learn how the land into trust process is carried out.
02/20/18 – 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM local time
02/21/18 – 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM local time
02/22/18 – 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM local time
02/27/18 – 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM local time
02/27/18 – 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM local time
03/1/18 – 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM local time
03/6/18 – 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM local time
03/8/18 – 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM local time
03/20/18 – 9:00 AM to 03/22/18 – 5:00 PM local time