Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approves two bills at meeting

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Senate Indian Affairs Committee Business Meeting October 7 2015

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved two bills at a business meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

Neither S.1579, the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience Act, nor H.R.487, a bill to address an issue raised by the Miami Nation of Oklahoma, received a hearing before the committee. But both are non-controversial and, in the case of H.R.487, Congress has approved similar legislation for other tribes in the past.

"I certainly support the two bills that are up today," said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the vice chairman of the committee.

The House already approved H.R.487 by a voice vote on September 16 so the committee's approval brings it one step closer to final passage in the 114th Congress. The bill allows the tribe to sell or transfer non-trust lands without running afoul of the Non-Intercourse Act.

Leaders of the Miami Nation of Oklahoma, from left: First Councilperson Donya Williams, Second Councilperson Scott Willard, Chief Doug Lankford, Secretary-Treasurer Sarah Lawson and Second Chief Dustin Olds. Photo from Miami Nation

"The Indian Non-Intercourse Act is old and out of date but the Supreme Court confirmed it is still in effect," Chief Douglas Lankford said at a hearing on the bill on June 10.

Similar laws have been enacted for other tribes. The most recent one was for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Minnesota, which President Obama signed into law in March 2014.

The Miami Nation has already seen success during the current legislative cycle. Congress. Obama signed H.R.533 into law on July 6 to revoke the tribe's outdated and unused Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act charter.

S.1579, the second bill approved today, is known as The NATIVE Act. It directs the Department of Commerce and the Department of the Interior to update their management plans and tourism strategies to include tribes and Indian organizations.

Participants in the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association annual conference toured Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado last month. Photo from AIANTA / Facebook

Six members of the committee have signed onto the bill, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) noted at the meeting. He thanked Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the chairman, for bringing it up for action so quickly after it was introduced on June 16.

“Every state, every community is different," Schatz said in a press release at the time. "That is why our legislation aims to empower Native communities and give them the resources to share their history and culture with travelers from around the globe."

The House version of the bill is H.R.3477. It has not received a hearing but passage in the Senate would likely lead to speedy consideration of S.1579 in the House.

Committee Notice:
Business Meeting to Consider S. 1579, H.R. 487 (October 7, 2015)

Related Stories
Senate Indian Affairs Committee schedules business meeting (10/5)
Congress returns to work and takes action on tribal measures (09/21)
House Natural Resources Committee approves three tribal bills (07/10)
House Natural Resources Committee considers tribal bills at markup (07/06)
House subcommittee hears views on tribal and Alaska Native bills (06/11)
House panel holds hearing on three tribal and Alaska Native bills (06/09)
House subcommittee sets June 10 hearing on three Indian bills (06/03)

Join the Conversation
Trending in News
More Headlines