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Legislative & Policy Update

Impact of February 24, 2009 U.S. Supreme Court’s Carcieri v. Salazar Ruling

Today marks the three-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Carcieri v. Salazar (Carcieri) ruling.

In Carcieri, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA) limits the Interior Secretary’s authority to place land into trust to only those tribes that were “under federal jurisdiction” as of 1934. This ruling effectively reversed 75 years of practice that included tribes who were federally acknowledged after the IRA had been passed and has frozen land trust transfer for these Indian nations. Prior to the Carcieri decision, the Department of the Interior consistently interpreted the IRA as authorizing the Secretary of Interior to place land into trust for any tribe as long as the tribe was federally recognized at the time of the trust application.

In an effort to reverse the damage of the decision in Carcieri, the National Congress of American Indians, the Western Region Tribes and others have petitioned Congress to pass a clean “Carcieri fix.”

Sen. Daniel Kahikina Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairmen of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said the number one priority for Indian County is a Carcieri fix to restore the Secretary’s authority to place land into trust for all federally recognized Indian tribes.
 
Currently, there are at least nine bills or amendments pending. The various bills and amendments range from providing a clean Carcieri fix – a clarification that the Interior Secretary has the authority to take land into trust for all federally acknowledged tribes – to effectively limiting or even completely eliminating tribes’ ability to take land into trust. 

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