House Natural Resources Committee holds markup on Indian bills

Billy Frank Jr., 1931-2014. Photo from Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

The House Natural Resources Committee opens a markup session this afternoon.

Two items of interest are on the agenda. The first is H.R.2212, which places about 300 acres in trust for the Susanville Indian Rancheria in California.

The bill received a favorable hearing before the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs on June 11. The tribe plans to use the land for its powwow grounds, a cultural center, a museum and a recreational area, according to the hearing memo.

"The land is our ancestral homeland and it has cultural and historical importance,” Secretary/Treasurer Aaron Dixon told the subcommittee in June. "We seek to reacquire this land to preserve and protect it.”

The bill is gaining steam in the 114th Congress. The Senate version -- S. 1761 -- will be heard by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee this afternoon.

The second item of interest at the markup is H.R.2270, the Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act. The bill redesignates the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge as the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in honor of the late treaty rights activist Billy Frank Jr., who was a member of the Nisqually Tribe.

The bill also establishes the Medicine Creek Treaty National Historic Site to mark the 1854 Treaty of Medicine Creek. Frank's defense of the treaty led to the historic Boldt court decision that confirmed the fishing rights for tribes in the Northwest.

"When visitors come to the wildlife refuge, I want them to sense the spirit of Billy Frank Jr. and the work of all of the tribes to defend and preserve our beautiful land and resources," Rep. Denny Heck (D-Washington) said in a press release in May, a year after Frank's passing. "Without that context, the background and history of our area gets lost. This is a way to preserve not just the refuge, but the stories surrounding it."

Heck presented the bill to the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands on July 14. It has widespread support in Congress and in Indian Country, according to the hearing memo.

The markup opens at 4pm this afternoon in Room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building. Consideration of the bills will conclude tomorrow at 10am in the same room.

Committee Notices:
Full Committee Markup on H.R. 974, H.R. 1107, H.R. 1452, H.R. 1820, H.R. 2212, H.R. 2270, H.R. 2406, H.R. 3382 (October 7, 2015)
Full Committee Markup on H.R. 974, H.R. 1107, H.R. 1452, H.R. 1820, H.R. 2212, H.R. 2270, H.R. 2406, H.R. 3382 (October 8, 2015)

Related Stories
Senate Indian Affairs Committee weighs seven bills at hearing (10/05)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee schedules hearing on seven bills (09/28)
House subcommittee hears views on tribal and Alaska Native bills (06/11)
Lawmakers plan bill to name wildlife refuge after Billy Frank (05/08)

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