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Cole Introduces Land into Trust Bill in the House

October 2, 2009
Press Release

Bill Clarifies Indian Reorganization Act of 1934

WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) recently introduced H.R. 3697 a bill that would amend the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA) to reaffirm the authority of the Secretary of Interior to take land into trust for Indian tribes. 

Land into Trust is a process of converting land from a private or individual title to a federal title, allowing the land to belong to the United States.  Earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled that a modern reading of the IRA did not adequately provide authority for the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island.  Many tribes in existence today were not federally recognized before the 1934 law was passed.  Cole's bill makes clarifying changes to the IRA of 1934 so that the Interior Department will be able to continue to acquire trust lands for tribes, regardless of the date a tribe was federally recognized.

Cole's legislation is a companion bill to the Senate version, S.1703, which was introduced by Senator Byron Dorgan (NC) on September 24.  Senator Dorgan is the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

"This bill will clarify federal law to ensure all federally-recognized Indian tribes are able to participate in the Trust process with the United States," Congressman Cole said.  "There has been too much confusion with the way the law is currently written.  The Trust process was meant to allow tribes to purchase lands for their benefit.  Without the changes Senator Dorgan and I have proposed, there will still be questions about which tribes can legitimately enter into a Trust agreement with the United States.  It is my hope that this legislation will be taken up in short order."
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