On November 30, 2011, Representative Don Young (R-AK), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, introduced HR 3532, the American Indian Empowerment Act of 2011. Representative Dan Boren (D-OK) was an original co-sponsor of the bill which was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. As introduced, HR 3532 would change existing federal Indian law in some key areas.
First, the bill would allow for federally recognized Indian tribes to request that lands held in trust for the tribe be conveyed to the tribe under restricted-fee status. Once the governing body of a tribe makes a request in writing, the Secretary of the Interior would have 180 days to complete the mandatory transfer. The tribal trust land would then be a restricted-fee parcel, subject only to restrictions against alienation and taxation. Second, the bill provides that the change in status of the land from trust to restricted-fee land would not affect its status as “Indian country” as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1151.
The bill contains two additional provisions on tribal authority over the restricted fee lands. An Indian tribe may lease, or grant easements and rights-of-way, on the restricted fee lands without any approval or review from the Secretary of the Interior. Finally, tribal law would preempt any federal law regarding the use of the restricted fee land. In order for tribal law to have such effect over federal law, however, the Secretary must publish the tribal laws in the FEDERAL REGISTER within 120 days after receiving a copy of the tribal laws from the tribe.
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