Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn joined Pueblo of Sandia Governor Victor Montoya on March 14 in announcing the first tribal regulations in the nation issued under the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act (HEARTH Act).
The announcement came as part of President Barack Obama’s “commitment to empowering American Indian tribal nations and strengthening their economies,” according to a White House press release.
The HEARTH Act was introduced by former Representative Martin Heinrich (NM-1st District), and restores the authority of federally recognized Indian tribes to control the leasing of tribal lands. The hope of the Act is to promote tribal self-determination and spur economic development.
“[Yesterday]’s action is an historic step forward, not only for the Pueblo of Sandia, but for all of Indian country,” Salazar said in the release. “With these approved leasing regulations, the Pueblo will have the authority to decide how they want to do business on their lands – which is as it should be. I applaud the Pueblo of Sandia for their early leadership and look forward to working with tribes across the nation to approve leasing regulations and to encourage economic development on Indian lands, generating investment, new jobs and revenues.”
At the signing ceremony, which took place at the Pueblo of Sandia’s tribal council offices just outside Albuquerque, Montoya said, “Today's adoption of these tribal leasing regulations under the HEARTH Act will allow the Pueblo to be more responsive to leasing proposals and opportunities, and to directly regulate the leasing of our lands, furthering the fundamental goals of maintaining tribal sovereignty and achieving tribal self-determination and self-sufficiency.
"Under the direction of our tribal council, we have established a successful record of business management and economic development, and are able to assess opportunities and proposals for the leasing of our lands. We also have developed strong environmental regulatory and land management capabilities. The Pueblo is ready, willing and able to relieve the federal government of some of its regulatory burden over the leasing of tribal lands, and to assume direct regulatory authority and responsibility over the leasing of our lands.”
The HEARTH Act went into law last July following Obama’s signature allowing tribe’s to have authority to process land leases without the Bureau of Indian Affairs approval in an effort to expedite the time taken to approve leases for homes and small businesses in Indian country.
“A hallmark of self-determination is that it should be the tribe that decides how its lands may be used for the good of its members, and that is what the HEARTH Act means to accomplish,” Washburn said. “I congratulate Governor Montoya and council members on the successful development of their tribe’s surface leasing regulations. It is an action that will help Sandia secure the well-being of its future generations and support the self-reliance for which the Pueblo people always have been known.”
The Pueblo becomes the second tribe to be approved under the Act as the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in California were approved in February.
“One of my proudest moments in Congress was when the HEARTH Act was signed into law,” Senator Heinrich (D-NM) said. “We’ve opened doors to homeownership for tribal families in New Mexico and across the country. The HEARTH Act will help jumpstart economic development in Indian country by making it easier for Native families to buy and build houses and open businesses in the communities where their families have lived for generations. I join Secretary Salazar in applauding the Pueblo of Sandia for their early leadership and look forward to continue working with our Indian tribes to make New Mexico a great place to raise a family.”