Robert McGhee, Vice Chair of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, addresses a listening session of the White House Tribal Nations Summit on November 16, 2021.

McGhee focuses his remarks on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar. The nearly 13-year-old case has made it more difficult for tribes across the nation to restore their homelands through the land-into-trust process at the Department of the Interior.

McGhee asks the Biden administration about its plans to protect tribal homelands in lieu of a permanent fix for the decision. Since the February 2009 ruling, Congress has been unable to pass legislation to ensure all tribes, regardless of the date of their federal recognition, can follow the land-into-process.

“A number of tribes like Poarch have asked the department to begin the rulemaking process to provide a more durable process for ‘under federal jurisdiction decisions,’” McGhee notes. As a result of Carcieri, tribes must show they were “under federal jurisdiction” as of 1934 before the U.S. can acquire lands in trust for them.

Participants in the listening session included Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland. Due to time constraints during the White House Tribal Nations Summit, the two officials did not respond directly to McGhee.