Senate Committee on Indian Affairs holds hearing on Indian Reorganization Act

Tue, June 28, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, held an oversight hearing Thursday titled “The Indian Reorganization Act – 75 Years Later:  Renewing our Commitment to Restore Tribal Homelands and Promote Self-Determination.

“The hearing illustrated that the intentions of Congress was clear when it enacted the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934, and again with amendments to the Act in 1994,” said Senator Akaka.  “It is the responsibility of Congress to act when its intentions are misconstrued by the courts.  To that end, I am committed to passing legislation to fix the Carcieri decision and to preserve the right of tribes to restore their homelands and exercise sovereignty over those lands.”

The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) was enacted in June of 1934 to strengthen tribal governments and restore tribal homelands that were decimated by federal policies during the termination and allotment eras.

Committee members questioned law professors and Indian law experts on the original intent of the IRA, amendments made to the IRA in 1994 to ensure that all tribes are treated equally and have the same sovereign rights, and why the IRA is still relevant today in allowing tribes to take lands into trust and exercise self-determination.  Much of the witnesses’ testimony and questions from Members’ focused on the 2009 Carcieri v. Salazar Supreme Court decision, which ruled that the IRA term “now under Federal jurisdiction” referred only to tribes federally recognized when the IRA was enacted.  As a result of the Carcieri decision, the federal government is no longer able to take land into trust from tribes recognized after 1934.

In March, Chairman Akaka introduced S. 676, legislation to address problems arising from the controversial Supreme Court ruling.  The introductory floor statement of the S. 676 and press release are available online.