Subcommittee Holds Legislative Hearing on Tribal Lands Bill

February 6, 2018 


Christopher Lomahquahu

Gila River Indian News 



A bill that would put lands back into the hands of the Gila River Indian Community was presented before the House Committee on Natural Resources on Feb. 6.


Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis testified before the house committee on House Resolution 4032 to legitimize rights-of-way claims to lands on the northwest boundary of the Community.


Dating back to 2006, the Community presented a lawsuit against the Unites States before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia regarding trust assets and land.


In 2016 the Community entered into negotiations in lieu of their previous lawsuit with the federal government, through a Joint Stipulation Settlement.


The settlement is an agreement between the Community and the federal government, that resolves any claims trust case.


Furthermore, H.R. 4032 will legally establish right-of-way claims on Community lands and prevents future disputes around such issues.


Most importantly, this will outline the northwest Community boundary, and place Bureau of Land Management lands into trust for GRIC. 


In the legislation, it claims that the U.S. government failed to document federal rights-of-way across the Community over 3,600 acres. 


It includes claims about illegal patenting of lands to non-natives and failed to accurately survey the Community’s northwestern boundary.


H.R. 4032, also states that the federal government must maintain adequate systems and controls to guard against error or dishonesty on Community trust property.


In summary, the resolution aims to place more responsibility on the federal government over how Community land into trust is managed.


Some of the other reasons for resolution, provided on the issue, was a failure to collect rent and document of rights-of-way for the Community’s trust assets.


Information on the issue cited the long-standing history of errors made in establishing the northern boundary of the Community.


Within the summary, its stated the Community’s boundary near the Salt River and Gila River, where the two rivers intersect does not reflect the actual boundary of the tribe.


When the piece of legislation is passed, the Community hopes that it will settle where the northwestern boundary and dissolve the long-standing issues with the rights-of-way claims with outside entities.


It will hold the federal government responsible for its obligations under the act’s stipulations, if passed.