House passes land-into-trust bills for tribes in Nevada and Arizona

A view of the Summit Lake Paiute Reservation in Nevada. Photo by Ken Lund / Flickr

Six tribes in Nevada and another one in Arizona are closer to securing new trust lands thanks to action on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

By voice votes, the House passed H.R.2733, the Nevada Native Nations Lands Act, and H.R.2009, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Land Conveyance Act. Both bills had bipartisan support and there was little debate on either, a sign of the non-controversial nature of the legislation.

The Nevada Native Nations Land Act transfers various parcels of federal land to six Nevada tribes. The properties will be held in trust and used for housing, cultural, economic development and other purposes.

"The six Nevada tribes that are affected by this legislation want to expand their reservations for a variety of purposes, including for recreational use, residential construction, and energy and mineral development. H.R. 2733 will allow the tribes to pursue these goals," Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Missouri) said on the House floor. "By passing this bill, they will be able to preserve their cultural heritage and traditions, expand housing for their members, and realize new economic development opportunities."

The biggest chunk of land would go to the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe. About 31,269 acres of Bureau of Land Management property will be transferred if the bill becomes law, according to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

"The tribe intends to utilize these lands for economic development and community growth," said Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Nevada) "Specifically, the additional lands will allow the tribe to expand agricultural operations, additional housing and facilities development, and to protect cultural sites and wildlife."

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: U.S. House of Representatives Debate on H.R.2733, the Nevada Native Nations Lands Act June 6, 2016

The Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe would secure about 19,094 acres, also from the BLM. The land has been at issue for more than 40 years.

"I want to point out that, for the folks of the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe, the 19,000-acre transfer that is proposed in this piece of legislation was first before the United States Congress in a bill that was introduced in 1972 by then-Nevada Senators Alan Bible and Howard Cannon," said Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nevada), who introduced the bill nearly a year ago. "Certainly, that tribe gets the 'patience' award in terms of waiting to fill in what is largely checkerboard-type holdings to consolidate their holdings in the whole thing."

The bill transfers 13,434 acre acres of BLM property to the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. About 6,357 acres from the BLM would go to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

The Summit Lake Paiute Tribe would see about 941 acres. And the Shoshone Paiute Tribes would receive about 82 acres from the U.S. Forest Service if the measure becomes law.

The Senate passed S.1436, a companion version of H.R.2733, in April. Passage in the House puts the tribes closer to their goal of securing the lands.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: U.S. House of Representatives Debate on H.R.2009, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Land Conveyance Act June 7, 2016

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe Land Conveyance Act finalizes a land transfer between the federal government, the Tucson Unified School District and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona. The bill, which places about 40 acres in trust, completes a process that was set in motion by H.R.507, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Trust Land Act, which became law in June 2014.

"Last Congress we finalized the first part of the agreement with the passage and signing of H.R. 507, which conveyed two 10-acre parcels to the tribe," Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) said on the floor. "Passage of this bill will complete the second part of the agreement to the mutual benefit of both parties involved as well as the surrounding communities."

"I would like to note that the tribe and TUSD have had, and continue to have, a great working relationship, especially when it comes to the land use decisions around the Pascua Yaqui reservation," Grijalva added. "This bill is a direct result of that relationship and was negotiated with input from all parties involved and with an eye to the most effective use of the parcels.

There is no companion version in the Senate but that chamber could take up H.R.2009 now that it has passed in the House.

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