Law | Opinion

Bryan Newland: Important context on land-into-trust process

Byran Newland

Attorney Bryan Newland, a member of the Bay Mills Indian Community, addresses a controversial memo circulated by the Republican majority on the House Subcommittee Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs as part of a hearing on the land-into-trust process:
On May 14, the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs conducted a hearing entitled, “Inadequate Standards for Trust Land Acquisition in the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.”

In advance of the hearing, the Majority Staff called the fee-to-trust provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act into question. Felix Cohen has described these provisions as the “capstone” of the IRA.

The Majority Staff Memo creates the perception that the BIA is an unfettered and unchecked bureaucracy that is gobbling up land for Indians at the expense of unsuspecting communities. It also gives credence to the notion that there is a need to curb “reservation shopping” to prevent some sort of massive proliferation of Indian gaming facilities.

The Majority Staff Memo ignores or omits some important context.

First, an overwhelming majority of tribal fee-to-trust applications are for lands that are located within or contiguous to an existing reservation. During my tenure with the Department of the Interior, this category comprised approximately 90 percent of all tribal fee-to-trust applications.

Of those applications, a large number of applications involve tribes seeking to consolidate their interest in parcels that are held in both fee and trust status. Congress encouraged these applications when it amended the Indian Land Consolidation Act in 2000 to address Emulsified Property.

Get the Story:
Bryan Newland: House Subcommittee on Indian Affairs Memo on Fee-to-Trust and Important Context (Indian Country Today 5/19)

Committee Notice:
Oversight Hearing on "Inadequate Standards for Trust Land Acquisition in the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934." (May 14, 2015)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories:
Rep. Young stirs questions in Indian Country in two hearings (5/18)
Rep. Torres issues statement on heated exchange at hearing (5/15)
House subcommittee hearing on land-into-trust turns heated (5/14)
Turtle Talk: Analysis of GOP committee land-into-trust memo (5/14)
Witness list for House subcommittee land-into-trust hearing (5/13)
House subcommittee schedules hearing on land-into-trust (5/11)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee ready for discussion on Carcieri (03/24)
Bill introduced in Senate to fix Carcieri land-into-trust decision (03/16)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee to host roundtable on Carcieri (3/13)
Updates from National Congress of American Indians winter session (02/26)
Updates from National Congress of American Indians winter session (02/25)
ICT interview with Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn at BIA (11/17)
Tribal leaders headed to Capitol Hill to push legislative priorities (09/16)
Paul Moorehead: Let's get back to promoting self-government (07/30)
Rep. Young offers explanation for inaction on land-into-trust fix (07/15)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee approves five bills at meeting (06/11)
Dave Palermo: Lobbyists battle on fix to land-into-trust ruling (4/30)
Law Article: DOI takes diligent approach with land-into-trust (03/19)
DOI addresses Carcieri land-into-trust decision in legal opinion (03/13)