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Ron W.
Democrat OR

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  • Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

    by Senator Ron Wyden

    Posted on 2013-02-28

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    WYDEN (for himself and Mr. Merkley): S. 402. A bill to provide for the addition of certain real property to the reservation of the Siletz Tribe in the State of Oregon; to the Committee on Indian Affairs.



    Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, today I rise to introduce a bill that will address a cumbersome and time consuming process in place under existing law within the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This piece of legislation will streamline the land acquisition process for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. The current process for taking land into trust is simply not working, and I believe there are changes that need to be made in the existing process. I am pleased to be joined by Senator Merkley in this effort. I want to note that I introduced similar legislation last Congress that was stalled at the Committee level due to certain language in that bill--language that, at the time, we thought was needed but found later was unnecessary and was preventing the bill from moving forward. In the bill I am introducing today, I took that language out to resolve the needs of the various stakeholders and to ensure the bill has a chance to pass the Committee and be signed into law.

    The original Siletz Coastal Treaty Reservation, established by the Executive Order on November 9, 1855, was diminished and then eliminated by the Federal Government's allotment and termination policies. Tribal members and the tribal government have worked to rebuild the Siletz community since the Western Oregon Termination Act of August 1954 stripped the Siletz people of Federal tribal recognition. Since then the tribe has been struggling to rebuild its land base. This legislation would work to facilitate the tribe's land into trust process within the original Siletz coast reservation to overcome chronic agency delays in processing applications. Instead of having two cumbersome processes to bring each piece of former reservation land back into the reservation after purchase, one to bring the land into trust and another to make it reservation land, my legislation would allow the tribe to combine the process.

    In this case, because the original reservation was disassembled, and the tribe terminated and provided a very small land base upon restoration, virtually every tract of land the tribe seeks to place into trust today is considered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, [[Page S1014]] BIA, pursuant to off-reservation fee-to-trust procedures. Off- reservation requests would mean that, according the regulations, the ``. . . secretary gives greater scrutiny to the tribe's justification of anticipated benefits. . .'' By applying the on-reservation fee-to-trust criteria for lands within the Siletz Tribe's original reservation, this legislation allows the Tribe to take land into trust that will ultimately provide for vital tribal programs such as housing, government administration, and jobs-- for both tribal and county residents. In addition, the bill emphasizes the importance and the intent of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934--which allows the Secretary of Interior, in his or her discretion, to take land into trust for the benefit of an Indian tribe or of individual Indians. Essentially, reversing the loss of tribal lands and restoring some of the tribe's original land base by allowing the Tribe to take land into trust under the same provisions as other Indian tribes within their reservations.

    This bill underscores the importance of economic stability and self- determination for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and its members. Due to failed Termination Era policies, Oregon Tribal communities suffer some of the greatest hurdles, whether it is health care, education, or crime on reservations. This bill would alleviate much of the cost and much needed resources associated with the bureaucratic hoops the tribe has had to jump through for years--which mean a significant savings of time and resources.

    The Siletz Tribe has approached all the involved counties and has developed great communication and working relationships with them. This legislation establishes and confirms a positive and beneficial partnership between the Federal Government, Siletz Tribe and local counties Lincoln, Lane, Tillamook, Yamhill, Benton, and Douglas.

    That is why I am introducing this legislation. The process remains cumbersome and costly and I recognize the need for more action. It is always great to see tribes and local counties work together to come up with proactive solutions for their communities to tackle challenging economic conditions.

    I want to express my thanks to all the citizens and community and tribal leaders who have worked to build their communities. They represent the pioneering spirit and vision that defines my state.

    Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

    There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: S. 402 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. TREATMENT OF CERTAIN PROPERTY OF THE SILETZ TRIBE OF THE STATE OF OREGON.

    Section 7 of the Siletz Tribe Indian Restoration Act (25 U.S.C. 711e) is amended by adding at the end the following: ``(f) Treatment of Certain Property.-- ``(1) In general.-- ``(A) Title.--The Secretary may accept title to any additional number of acres of real property located within the boundaries of the original 1855 Siletz Coast Reservation established by Executive Order dated November 9, 1855, comprised of land within the political boundaries of Benton, Douglas, Lane, Lincoln, Tillamook, and Yamhill Counties in the State of Oregon, if that real property is conveyed or otherwise transferred to the United States by or on behalf of the tribe.

    ``(B) Trust.--Land to which title is accepted by the Secretary under this paragraph shall be held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the tribe.

    ``(2) Treatment as part of reservation.--All real property that is taken into trust under paragraph (1) shall-- ``(A) be considered and evaluated as an on-reservation acquisition under part 151.10 of title 25, Code of Federal Regulations (or successor regulations); and ``(B) become part of the reservation of the tribe.

    ``(3) Prohibition on gaming.--Any real property taken into trust under paragraph (1) shall not be eligible, or used, for any gaming activity carried out under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (25 U.S.C. 2701 et seq.).''.

    ______ By Mr. GRASSLEY (for himself, Mr. Schumer, Mr. Leahy, Mr. Cornyn, Mr. Durbin, Ms. Klobuchar, and Mr. Blumenthal): S. 405. A bill to provide for media coverage of Federal court proceedings; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

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