House Natural Resources Committee approves two Indian bills

Dancers at the Susanville Indian Rancheria powwow in May 2015. Still image from Randy Shirley / YouTube

The House Natural Resources Committee passed two Indian bills at a markup session that concluded on Thursday morning.

H.R.2212, a bill to benefit the Susanville Indian Rancheria in California, and H.R.2270, the Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act, were approved by unanimous consent. Both are considered non-controversial and enjoy bipartisan support.

H.R.2212 places about 300 acres in trust for the Susanville Rancheria. The tribe plans to use the land -- currently under the control of the Bureau of Land Management -- 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 House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs on June 11. "We seek to reacquire this land to preserve and protect it.”

The bill can now be considered on the House floor. The Senate version -- S. 1761 -- was heard by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee yesterday afternoon.

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

The second bill approved at the markup 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 first 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 bill awaits further consideration on the House floor.

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
House Natural Resources Committee holds markup on Indian bills (10/7)
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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