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Cole, McCollum Introduce Bill to Reaffirm Tribal Trust Agreements

July 23, 2015
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) and Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-04), co-chairs of the Native American Congressional Caucus, this week introduced H.R. 3137, to reaffirm the trust status of tribal trust lands. The legislation ensures that existing tribal lands will continue to be held in trust by the federal government and removes the uncertainty and ambiguities inherent within the Carcieri v. Salazar opinion.

“I am pleased to introduce legislation that seeks to further repair what has historically been a battered relationship between Native Americans and the federal government,” said Cole. “By reaffirming the trust status of lands acquired by tribes, this bill keeps the promises previously made and rightly provides peace of mind related to the ownership of tribal lands.” 

“The placement of land into trust for tribal nations is a binding commitment,” said McCollum. “This bipartisan bill makes clear that our government honors the commitments it has made, and that lands that have been restored and held for tribes under existing trust status are protected for future generations.”


On June 18, 1934, Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) to protect tribal sovereignty and to help restore lands to tribes. For 75 years, all federally recognized tribes had the right under IRA to request that land be placed into trust for their nations by the Secretary of the Interior Department. Accordingly, tribes have used their trust lands to build community facilities like schools, health clinics and tribal housing to serve their tribal members. 

In 2009, however, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that long-established precedent in Carcieri v. Salazar. In addition to generating expensive litigation, the Carcieri decision caused uncertainty and unequal treatment among federally recognized tribes, operating on existing tribal trust lands. 

Bill text is available here


Sarah Corley (202) 225-6165
Sam McCullough (202) 225-6631 (McCollum)