Land-into-trust fix included in House Interior appropriations bill
A fix to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar was included in an appropriations bill adopted by the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee on Thursday.

The court's decision restricts the land-into-trust process to tribes that were "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934. The fix ensures that all tribes, regardless of the date of federal recognition, can benefit.

"Today's action is a significant step forward for this important legislation," Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), a member of the Chickasaw Nation, said yesterday. "Without this language, the standard set forth in Carcieri v. Salazar will be devastating to tribal sovereignty and economic development."

Cole said the fix that the subcommittee adopted is based on H.R.3697, a bill that he introduced last October. It amends the Indian Reorganization Act by replacing the phrase "any recognized Indian tribe now under federal jurisdiction" with "any federally recognized Indian tribe" in the section that authorizes the Interior Department to acquire land for tribes.

In its February 2009 ruling, the Supreme Court narrowly interpreted the phrase "any recognized Indian tribe now under federal jurisdiction" to mean a tribe that was federally acknowledged in 1934. The limitation affects dozens of tribes whose federal status may not have been clear at the time.

"Resolving any ambiguity in the Indian Reorganization Act is vital to protecting tribal interests and avoiding costly and protracted litigation," Cole said.

The Interior bill still needs to be approved by the full House Appropriations Committee. And it would need to gain passage in the House and the Senate for the fix to become law.

Still, yesterday's action marked the most significant step forward for the fix, which stalled in the House and the Senate at the end of last year.

Interior Appropriations Bill:
Rep. Jim Moran Statement | Summary Table | Earmark List

Land-Into-Trust Fix:
S.1703 | H.R.3697 | H.R.3742

Supreme Court Decision:
Syllabus | Opinion [Thomas] | Concurrence [Breyer] | Dissent [Stevens] | Concurrence/Dissent [Souter]

Supreme Court Documents:
Oral Argument Transcript | Briefs

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