Tribal Government & News

Reservation Act amendment to receive Senate hearing on Feb. 2

01.31.2012 Ron Karten Tribal Council, Federal government, Events

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The Webcast of the hearing on the proposed amendment to the Grand Ronde Reservation Act can be watched at 11:15 a.m. Pacific time on Thursday, Feb. 2, by going to

An amendment to the 1988 Grand Ronde Reservation Act that would streamline how the Tribe takes former reservation land back into Tribal ownership will receive a hearing before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Thursday, Feb. 2.

A Grand Ronde contingent, led by Tribal Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy, will attend the hearing with Kennedy providing testimony.

Also attending will be Tribal Council Vice Chair Reyn Leno, Tribal Council Secretary Jack Giffen Jr. and Tribal Council members Toby McClary, June Sherer, Valorie Sheker and Kathleen Tom. Tribal Attorney Rob Greene also will make the trip.

When it was introduced, the amendment received the unanimous support of Oregon's Democratic delegation, which includes senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and representatives Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader. Rep. David Wu also supported the amendment before his resignation from Congress in 2011.

The amendment would end the current two-step process that requires the Grand Ronde Tribe to take each piece of former reservation land into trust with approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and then request that it be designated reservation land. The amendment would allow the Tribe to combine the process for property that was within the boundaries of the original reservation.

"The current process is time consuming and often takes years to complete," Greene said last year about the request. "The amendment means a significant savings of time and resources" to the Tribe and federal government.

The Grand Ronde Tribe originally had a more than 60,000-acre reservation, but the federal government's allotment and other policies whittled away at that land base until 1954's Western Oregon Termination Act. The Tribe was restored in 1983 and the 1988 Grand Ronde Reservation Act, signed by President Ronald Reagan, returned 9,811 acres of the original reservation to the Tribe.

Because of federal regulations that require the Bureau of Indian Affairs to consider the effect on local governments resulting from the removal of land from tax rolls, the Tribe worked to secure the support of Polk and Yamhill county commissioners in May and June 2010, respectively.

Tribal leaders cited the fact that the Grand Ronde Tribe offsets any loss of tax revenue by substantially reinvesting in the community, which straddles the county line between Polk and Yamhill counties.

The Tribe constructed the $1 million West Valley Fire District fire station on Grand Ronde Road, as well as was the lead governmental agency in the $6.4 million reconstruction of Grand Ronde Road, which made the roadway safer for motorists and pedestrians alike.

In recent years, the Tribe has purchased several parcels of land in the Grand Ronde area that used to be part of the original reservation.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) will chair the hearing on the pending legislation in the Dirksen Building in Washington, D.C.