Dear USET/USET SPF Family,
This afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4352, legislation that would fix the devastating decision in Carcieri v. Salazar by confirming that the Secretary of the Interior has the authority to take land into trust for all federally recognized Tribal Nations and ensuring that lands already held in trust remain secure. Please see a press release from the bill's sponsor, Rep Betty McCollum, on this important vote. While USET SPF celebrates today's vote, there is much more work to do.
Homelands are essential to the exercise of our inherent sovereign rights and authorities as governments, cultural identity, and foundational to our economies. After decades of intentional federal efforts to diminish our homelands, placing land into trust on behalf of Tribal Nations is foundational to the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations and part of correcting this historical wrong.
USET SPF has been advocating for a fix to the Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar since it was handed down in 2009. Carcieri has created a deeply inequitable 2-class system, in which some Tribal Nations have the ability to restore their homelands and others do not. This 2-class system serves to deny these Tribal Nations a critical component of the trust relationship, vital aspects of the exercise of inherent sovereignty, and the opportunity to qualify for several federal programs.
H.R. 4352 contains the two features necessary to restore parity to the land-into-trust process: (1) a reaffirmation of the status of current trust lands; and (2) confirmation that the Secretary has authority to take land into trust for all federally recognized Tribal Nations.
Although a Carcieri fix has now passed the House four times, it has never passed the Senate, due to influential pockets of opposition and the nature of Senate procedure, which allows for any Senator to hold up consideration of a bill. With this in mind, continued advocacy before the Senate and a unified voice from our member Tribal Nations and all of Indian Country remains critically important. USET SPF will turn its focus to the Senate and keep our membership apprised of further developments and opportunities to weigh in.
For more information, please contact Liz Malerba, USET SPF Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.