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The Catawba Indian Nation is the 51st tribe to be authorized to enter into business leases on trust land by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.  (Courtesy photo).

WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Indian Affairs announced on Friday it approved a business leasing ordinance for the Catawba Indian Nation in South Carolina under the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act. 

Established by Congress in 2012, the HEARTH Act authorizes federally recognized tribes to enter into business leases on its trust lands without approval by the BIA. The Catawba tribe, with some 2,800 members, has about 1,107 acres of land in trust in South Carolina, as well as 16.57 acres of land in Kings Mountain, N.C. that was put into trust in March 2020. The tribe plans to build a $273 million casino complex on the North Carolina property.  

Granting tribes greater autonomy to regulate leasing on their trust lands helps expedite leasing for economic development in Indian Country, according to the BIA. 

“With its business leasing regulations approved, the Catawba Indian Nation is now better positioned to pursue its economic development goals,” BIA Assistant Secretary Tara Sweeney said in a statement. “The HEARTH Act is making a positive difference for tribes with approved land leasing regulations by opening Indian Country for business.  It is an important way for them to bring the benefits of entrepreneurship and enterprise to their communities.”

Because the HEARTH Act authorizes tribes to enter into business and agricultural leases for up to 75 years without approval from the Interior, it also facilitates long-term economic stability in tribal communities. Including the Catawba, 51 federally recognized tribes have had their leasing regulations approved under the HEARTH Act. 

“For decades, the Catawba people have sought to become economically self-sufficient and to put behind us years of economic difficulty,” Catawba Indian Nation Chief William Harris said in a statement. “Assistant Secretary Sweeney’s approval of our business lease ordinance greatly advances us along the path of self-sufficiency, empowering us to make decisions for ourselves with regard to the best business uses for our land.”

“We have righted a great wrong,” U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said in a statement.  “This is great news for Catawba Nation and people in these border areas who will see an increase in employment opportunities.”

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