July 14, 2016

Tribal Lands Legislation Passes Key Senate Committee

Washington, DC – A package of tribal land bills sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley that will help the economic self-sufficiency of Native Americans in Oregon passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“These Tribes have all waited patiently for these bills, each of which will help them as sovereign nations to build their economies,” said Wyden, a senior member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “I am gratified this legislation that both corrects historical wrongs and supports the tribes’ self-sufficiency is advancing to the full Senate.”

“Our country owes the Native American tribes our best efforts to redress the historical wrongs that our government has committed,” said Merkley.  “This legislation would be one small slice of justice by creating jobs and opportunities for tribal members and returning ancestral lands back to Oregon tribes.”

The package of legislation passed by the committee on Wednesday has three pieces.

One bill is the Cow Creek Umpqua Land Conveyance Act, which would convey about 17,519 acres of federal land now managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) into trust for The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians. A second bill is the Oregon Coastal Land Act, which would place about 14,742 acres of federal land also now managed by the BLM into trust for The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians. These tribes were restored to federal recognition in the 1980’s.

The third bill would amend the Coquille Restoration Act to require the Interior Department to manage The Coquille Indian Tribes’ forest lands in the same way as other tribal forest lands.

The approval by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee of all three pieces of legislation sends them to the full Senate. Similar legislation introduced by Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio has already passed the House.