Tribal Government & News

House passes bill to amend Grand Ronde Reservation Act

12.06.2016 Dean Rhodes Tribal Council, Federal Government

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After more than six years of work, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde is one step away from streamlining the process of how it takes land into trust.

On Tuesday, Dec. 6, the U.S. House of Representatives approved amendments to the Grand Ronde Reservation Act that mirror those already approved by the Senate.

All that is missing for the amendments to become law is the signature of President Barack Obama.

“The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde would like to thank the Oregon delegation for their support in advancing this important piece of legislation,” Tribal Council Chairman Reyn Leno said.

The Senate bill, introduced by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and co-sponsored by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, was approved on July 14, 2016, and sent to the House of Representatives.

The House bill was sponsored by Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader.

“This legislation is supported by the commissioners in Polk, Tillamook and Yamhill counties, who, like us, are focused on making their governments more efficient and using their revenues more wisely,” Leno said. “This legislation will enable the Tribe to more efficiently move the land it owns into reservation status, which is historically a very complex and time-consuming process.

“The Tribe and its neighboring counties continue to work cooperatively as partners in this and other matters that improve the quality of life for our members and the people of the West Valley.”

The amendments, once signed by President Obama, will 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 amendment will allow the Grand Ronde Tribe to combine the two-step process for real property that is within the boundaries of its original 69,100-acre reservation established in 1857.

“The Tribe is hampered in its efforts to restore land within its original reservation by a lengthy and cumbersome Bureau of Indian Affairs process,” Leno said. “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 and bureaucratic, and often takes years to complete.”

The amendment states that all real property taken into trust within the boundaries of the original reservation after Sept. 9, 1988, will be considered reservation land.

In addition, the amendment prohibits the use of any land taken into trust to be used for any gaming activity unless it is located within two miles of Spirit Mountain Casino.

Leno said passage of the legislation will save the Tribe and federal government time and money by streamlining the process.

The Tribe has been working on getting amendments to the Grand Ronde Reservation Act enacted since the summer of 2010.