Senate Indian Affairs Committee Hears Testimony on Seven Native American Bills
Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, held a hearing last week to receive testimony on seven bills meant to protect Native American communities.
“Today, the Committee received testimony from the Administration on seven bills that intend to improve tribal communities,” Hoeven said. “These bills protect artifacts and sacred objects from exportation, place land into trust, convey land to tribal health consortiums, approve and ratify water settlements, authorize water projects, and clarify the relinquishment of land claims. The testimony and responses to questions that we received during the legislative hearing will help the Committee continue to review the pending legislation.”
Included in the package of bills heard by the Committee was S. 2165, the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act of 2019, which will explicitly ban the exportation of any tribal artifacts obtained in violation of the Archeological Resources Act, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and the Antiquities Act.
Another bill, S. 2716, amends the Grand Ronde Reservation Act, correcting an error from an 1871 land survey that resolves the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s intention to take back land claims to the Thompson Strip in Oregon. Also, the Blackwater Trading Post Land Transfer Act allows the Secretary of the Interior to take more than 55 acres of land into trust for the Gila River Indian Community.
The Committee also heard testimony for bills concerning water rights, including the Western Tribal Water Infrastructure Act of 2019, which authorizes $10 million a year to the Columbia River Basin projects. The Montana Water Rights Protection Act, the biggest Indian water settlement in American history, ratifies water claims for the Confederated Kootenai and Salish Tribes.
Another bill the Committee discussed was the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Land Transfer Act of 2019, which directs the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to transfer two lots of land to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Also, S. 3099 allows the Secretary to convey almost 11 acres of land to the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.
During the hearing, the Committee heard testimony from Tim Petty, Assistant Secretary, Office of Water and Science, U.S. Department of the Interior; and Darryl LaCounte, Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior.