Asst. Sec. Echo Hawk on a Congressional Carcieri Fix

An excerpt from his op-ed in Indian Country Today this afternoon:

The Carcieri decision, and the secretary’s authority to acquire lands in trust for all Indian tribes, touches the heart of the federal trust responsibility. Without a clear reaffirmation of the secretary’s trust acquisition authority, a number of tribes will be delayed in their efforts to restore their homelands: Lands that will be used for cultural purposes, housing, education, health care and economic development.

It is important that a Carcieri fix not be tied to the issue of gaming, which is just one activity that may occur on Indian lands. Only 30 of the more than 1,350 pending land-into-trust applications before the department are for gaming purposes. At the same time, it is also important that we acknowledge the role of Indian gaming in tribal economic development.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act establishes the framework for regulating this activity, and has become part of the bedrock of federal Indian law over the last quarter-century. Any efforts to fundamentally alter this important law should adhere to the traditional legislative process, and allow for the full participation of all affected tribes.

Such a process is consistent with President Obama’s commitment to transparent government, tribal consultation, and the nation-to-nation relationship between the United States and Indian tribes.

I strongly object to any process that deviates from those principles, and fundamentally amends a cornerstone of federal Indian law and policy without full tribal participation.