PRESIDENT SIGNS GILA RIVER INDIAN COMMUNITY HOMELANDS LEGISLATION INTO LAW
December 21, 2018
Communications & Public Affairs Office
Gila River Indian Community
(Sacaton, Arizona) On Friday, December 21, 2018, President Trump signed H.R. 4032, the Gila River Indian Community Federal Rights-of-Way, Easements and Boundary Clarification Act into law. The legislation was passed by the United States Senate on December 13, 2018 and was sent to the President for his signature on December 19, 2018.
This legislation was tied to the prior settlement the Community reached with the federal government when a breach of trust case was brought against the government for a settlement that occurred on Community lands based on a wrongfully drawn northern boundary, and for use of the Community’s lands through undocumented rights-of-way which were not reimbursed to the Community and interfered with infrastructure development.
Stephen Roe Lewis, Governor of the Gila River Indian Community states, “The passage of this legislation is an important step towards clarifying the reservation boundaries, obtaining lands that are culturally significant to the Community, and ensuring that undocumented rights-of-way don’t interfere with the Community’s plans to manage our lands and water resources.” Governor Lewis added, “I applaud the work of the Community and the Community Council in making this legislation a priority and Congress for passing this legislation before the end of this congressional session.
I look forward to working with the Department of the Interior to fully implement this legislation for the betterment of our Community.”
The Community settled with the federal government in 2016, but H.R. 4032 was necessary to ensure that the same issues do not continue going forward. This law furthers the Communities goals in several critical ways:
- Settles the northern boundary of the reservation. The ability to settle the dispute along the northern boundary means we can avoid lengthy and costly litigation that would bring the Community in conflict with the City of Phoenix and the landowners who were allowed to settle on reservation lands when the boundaries were erroneously drawn by the federal government.
In exchange, the Community will be able to purchase 3,400 acres of culturally significant lands in the Estrella Mountains. Those lands will be placed into trust for the Community after they are purchased from the Bureau of Land Management. We have started the public notification and environmental review process for the land sale and we hope to have that land purchase completed by the end of next summer, thereby allowing us to protect our cultural areas without interference.
- Documentation of the rights-of-way on the Reservation. For decades, undocumented federal rights-of-way have interfered with Community infrastructure plans such as housing developments and irrigation projects. This law requires the Department of the Interior to document and publish all rights-of-way on the Reservation which will allow for more efficient and accurate planning for these and other infrastructure projects.