Blackwater Trading Post Legislation Passes U.S. House
Gila River Indian News
On May 13, 2021, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 478, the Blackwater Trading Post Land Transfer Act. This legislation would bring the 55.3 acres where the Blackwater Trading Post is located into trust for the Community.
The House legislation was sponsored by Congressman Tom O’Halleran who stated following the House vote: “Blackwater Trading Post has been an important community site for the Gila River Indian Community for over a hundred years; they have every right to this land, and it is my honor to build upon the efforts of many in the Community to bring them into trust,” said O’Halleran, a Democrat. “I was humbled to be able to re-introduce this legislation and I am thrilled to move forward with bipartisan, bicameral support.”
The bipartisan vote of 349 to 74 means the legislation now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration. Companion legislation sponsored by Senators Kelly and Sinema was passed out of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and is now ready for consideration by the full Senate. If the House bill is passed in the Senate it will become law following President Biden’s signature.
The legislation stalled in the Senate last year, but Governor Lewis and District 1 Representatives Arzie Hogg and Joey Whitman have continued their advocacy to see these lands with historic and cultural significance returned to the Community’s Reservation.
Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis applauded House’s early action on this bill. “Passage of the Blackwater Trading Post Land Transfer Act is an important step towards enactment of this legislation,” said Gov. Lewis. “The Gila River Indian Community deeply appreciates Congressman O’Halleran making this legislation a priority and the support of the entire delegation. The Community looks forward to swift action by the Senate so this culturally-important parcel can be taken into trust for our members residing in District 1.”
The 55 acres in question is bordered on three sides by the Reservation. Placing the acreage in trust will allow the Community to conduct land-use plans for the site and for adjacent property.
Established nearly a century ago, the Blackwater Trading Post operated until 2010, when the family ownership group sold the property to the Community. Post-sale, the Community recovered more than 1,000 items that had been traded at the Post and stored in its on-site museum. These culturally significant items were recovered and now reside in the Community’s Huhugam Heritage Center.