CERA's Letter to the BIA

October 12, 1999

Office of Trust Responsibilities
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Washington DC 20240
1849 C Street NW

Dear Sir/Madam,

We understand that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has proposed new regulations for the process of taking land into federal trust for the benefit of Indian tribes under the Code of Federal Regulations title 25 Section 151.

The conversion of fee lands to federal trust is disruptive to local non-Indian governments and citizens. The change to federal title removes the land from local tax rolls and creates conflicts with local land use plans, zoning, and law enforcement.

It is the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance position that before land can be put into federal trust for the benefit of Indian Tribes, a determination must be made whether such an action is precluded by the Indian Claims Commission Act, 60 Stat.1049 (1946). On August 13, 1946, Congress passed the ICCA, creating a Commission with broad and exclusive jurisdiction to hear claims arising under treaties, laws, executive orders, takings, and for unfair and dishonorable dealing. To the extent that the effort to put land into federal trust is based upon a historical or treaty claim to land, such as a claim that the land should be within the reservation, or a reservation was unfairly diminished, the ICC precludes the BIA from considering such a claim under Section 12 of the ICCA,

“No claim existing before such date (August 13, 1946) but not presented within such period (five years) may thereafter be submitted to any court or administrative agency for consideration, nor will such claim thereafter be entertained by the Congress.”
60 Stat. 1049, Section 12 (emphasis added).

Any claim that land should be put in trust status that arises from a claim that could have been made, or was made, pursuant to the ICCA must be barred from hearing by the BIA, Specifically, if the claim is based, in whole or in part, upon treaties, laws, takings, unfair dealings or any other transaction or occurrence that happened before August 13, 1946, the BIA is precluded by Section 12 of the ICCA from even considering that claim.

Furthermore, CERA opposes all transfers of fee land to trust status because different land classifications for different races is inherently racist These different classifications are a violation of our equal protections under the Fourteenth Amendment.

If the Department of Interior persists in attempting to transfer fee land into trust status the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance requests that:

1. The BIA must inform state and local governments immediately upon receiving an application for a fee to trust transfer. The BIA must also hold public meetings in the county or counties where a fee to trust title change application has been filed by a tribe. The meetings should take place a minimum of 60 days prior to any action taken by the BIA on the application.

2. The BIA must be required to explain to local citizens and their local governments any and all long term economic and social ramifications of putting the land In trust.

3. All requests for “Land to Trust” status by extinguished Tribes within disputed extinguished boundaries must be treated as off reservation land.

4. Public meetings must be held to tell private landowners that in this litigation the state’s public interests may not be able to protect private landowners interests.

5. That landowners be allowed to seek legal counsel and intervene as full parties to the case at the state’s expense.

Federal policies currently deny millions of people living on or near Indian reservations their full constitutional rights. It is therefore CERA’s mission to advocate equal protection of the law so that this nation of many cultures may be one people, living under one system of laws.

Sincerely,

Howard B. Hanson

cc:  President William J. Clinton
Vice-President Albert Gore Jr.
Sec. of the Interior Bruce Babbitt
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell
Judicial Committees