Tribal Government & News
Tribe continues effort to amend Reservation Act
Tribal Chairman Reyn Leno made his second appearance in less than a year before the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs on Thursday, May 16, seeking passage of an amendment to 1988's Grand Ronde Reservation Act that would streamline how the Tribe takes land into trust.
Leno also testified before the subcommittee during the previous Congress in July 2012.
The legislation, H.R. 841, was introduced by Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader and is supported by the entire Oregon congressional delegation.
It seeks to end the current two-step process that requires the Grand Ronde Tribe take each piece of former reservation land into trust with approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and then request the land be designated reservation land by Congress.
The legislation would allow the Grand Ronde Tribe to combine the two-step process for real property that is within the boundaries of its original reservation established in 1857.
Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Michael Black testified that the Department of the Interior continues to support the legislation as it did in the previous Congress.
"H.R. 841 has the support of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the unanimous support of Polk and Yamhill county commissioners, the two counties affected by this legislation," Leno said.
Except for several updated land descriptions, H.R. 841 is identical to legislation that received a hearing in the subcommittee on July 24, 2012, he added.
"As a result of the federal government's allotment and termination policies, Grand Ronde lost both its federal recognition and its original reservation of more than 60,000 acres," Leno said. "Grand Ronde's Restoration Act restored 9,811 acres of the Tribe's original reservation to the Grand Ronde people. Since 1988, the Tribe has pursued the goal of securing its sovereignty by acquiring additional parcels of its original reservation and providing on-reservation jobs and services to Tribal and community members.
"The Tribe is hampered in its efforts to restore land within its original reservation by a lengthy and cumbersome Bureau of Indian Affairs process. After it acquires a parcel in fee, the Tribe must prepare a fee-to-trust application package for the BIA. Then BIA processes the application as an 'on-reservation acquisition' or an 'off-reservation acquisition.' Because the Tribe does not have exterior reservation boundaries (instead, it has distinct parcels deemed reservation through legislation), all parcels are processed under the more rigorous off-reservation acquisition regulations - even if the parcel is located within the boundaries of the original reservation.
"After the land is accepted into trust, the Tribe must take an additional step of amending its Reservation Act through federal legislation to include the trust parcels in order for land to be deemed reservation land. Grand Ronde has been forced to come to the U.S. Congress three times in the last 20 years to amend its Reservation Act to secure reservation status for its trust lands. This process is unduly time-consuming, expensive, bureaucratic and often takes years to complete."
Leno said the legislation would save the Tribe and federal government time and money by streamlining the process.
"Based on the universal support of H.R. 841 and the importance of the legislation to the Tribe, I request the legislation be included in the committee's first markup," Leno said.
A companion bill to H.R. 841 was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Feb. 28 by Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden.
The legislation now heads to the House Committee on Natural Resources, where the panel may make changes and vote to send it to the full House.
Leno then reiterated the Grand Ronde Tribe's opposition to H.R. 931, which would allow the Confederated Tribes of Siletz to take land into trust within the boundaries of the former Coast Reservation.
"Grand Ronde is opposed as it would significantly infringe on the rights of the Grand Ronde and other Tribes in western Oregon," Leno said. "Grand Ronde would be supportive of the legislation, if amended, to limit the scope of the legislation to Lincoln County consistent with the Siletz Indian Tribe Restoration Act.
"The Coast Reservation has never been designated exclusively for the Siletz, but for many Tribes throughout western Oregon, including antecedent Tribes and bands of Grand Ronde, such as the Tribes of the Willamette Valley, Umpqua Valley and Rogue River Valley.
"While Grand Ronde, the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians and others opposed to the legislation can agree to disagree with the Siletz Tribe regarding its claim of primacy to the Coast Reservation, the simple facts are that H.R. 931 is opposed by at least two Oregon Tribes with legitimate cultural and historical claims to the area involved, fails to enjoy the support of the six counties affected by the legislation and does not have the support of the congressmen who represent four of the six counties contained in the legislation."
Siletz Tribal Chair Delores Pigsley testified in support of H.R. 931.
Also attending the House hearing were Tribal Council Vice Chair Jack Giffen Jr. and Tribal Attorney Rob Greene.
To view the archived hearing, visit http://naturalresources.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=333092.