(NAPA, California) Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon will testify before the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at an oversight hearing on the implications of a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision that set the current rules regarding which federally recognized tribes are eligible to have land taken into trust.
Dillon will testify on behalf of the California State Association of Counties (CSAC), delivering the message that any future legislation intended to fix inequities with the current system must also address the entire process of how tribes, the federal government and local government work together in the process of taking land into trust. The process has become a tool by which tribes can bypass local government processes, especially in cases where the tribe intends to conduct gaming on lands that are off reservation.
The hearing, entitled “Carcieri: Bringing Certainty to Trust Land Acquisitions,” will include testimony from witnesses regarding the Supreme Court’s Carcieri v. Salazar decision, in which the Court ruled that the Secretary of the Interior can take land into trust only for tribes that were “under federal jurisdiction” at the time of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.
Since then, many Indian tribes have urged Congress to pass legislation that would overturn the Carcieri decision, claiming that all tribes should have the ability to have land taken into trust. Current draft legislation, including HR 279 and HR 666, would restore the secretary's authority to take land into trust for all tribes regardless of when they were recognized, but does not require or address changes in to the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) “fee-to-trust” process.
“County governments have long been frustrated with the process by which lands are taken into trust. The problem is that the fee-to-trust system is broken and it is broken for all parties,” said Supervisor Dillon. “Newly sought-after lands are targeted in well-established communities that are closer to urban populations than existing casinos and aimed at creating new gamblers and drawing patrons from existing casinos.”
Dillon’s testimony on behalf of CSAC will also reference specific proposals, including a process that provides incentives for tribes to enter into local agreements with counties, and additional standards that should be enacted, including sufficient notice and consultation requirements. Dillon’s testimony has no bearing on the ongoing Mishewal Wappo litigation regarding the recognition of that group.
The hearing, a fact-gathering session for the Committee members, will begin at 11:30 a.m. Pacific time on Wednesday, Nov. 20. Viewers can watch it live at http://www.indian.senate.gov/hearings.