President Obama at previous White House Tribal Conference – Native News Online photo
Published June 27, 2016
National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) to Hold Special Session to Discuss Implementation Tuesday, June 28 at the NCAI Mid Year Conference in Spokane, Washington.
WASHINGTON – This past Wednesday, June 22, 206, in a major step forward in tribal self-determination over trust land management, President Obama signed H.R. 812, the Indian Trust Asset Management Reform Act. The Act establishes an Indian trust asset Demonstration Project, in addition to other provisions empowering tribes to better manage their own trust assets.
The primary feature of the new law is a Demonstration Project that empowers tribes to develop plans for trust asset management with tribal objectives and priorities. The tribal plan and regulations, when approved by the Secretary of the Interior, can authorize the tribe to engage in surface leasing, forest management, and appraisals without any further approval of the Secretary.
The new law also authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to create the position of Under Secretary for Indian Affairs to supervise and coordinate trust functions that are now separate in the OST, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other divisions of Interior. Further, the Secretary of the Interior is required to consult with tribes and develop a plan for the future of the OST.
“Tribal leaders want to move to a system focused on tribal self-determination and economic opportunities,” stated NCAI President Brian Cladoosby. “This Act allows for tribes to have greater control over decision making and furthers tribal self-governance. It is a significant milestone for the modernization of the trust relationship between the federal government and tribal nations.”
On behalf of Indian Country, NCAI would like to thank Representatives Mike Simpson (R-ID), Denny Heck (D-WA) as well as Representatives Cole, Kilmer, DelBene, Labrador, Reichert, McMorris Rodgers, Pocan, Jones, Gosar, and Newhouse. In the Senate, we would like to thank Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), who sponsored the Senate mirror bill, Senator James Risch (R-ID), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and the entire Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
NCAI will hold a special session at the Mid Year Conference next week in Spokane, Washington. This breakout will take place Tuesday, June 28 from 1:30 to 4:00 pm in the Spokane Convention Center – view the agenda here. The discussion will be led by Vice Chairman Ernie Stensgar of the Coeur D’Alene Tribe, who has been in the forefront on the legislation for many years. In addition to the new law, this session will address other areas of the trust reform effort, including Department of the Interior’s new Rights-of-Way Regulations; an update on the Land Buy-Back Program; Interior’s goal of place 500,000 acres in trust; and discussion with Office of the Special Trustee.