A Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing was held in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Oct. 13, to consider and review the countrywide effects of the 2009 Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar that found Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, did not have authority to take Narragansett Indian tribal land into federal trust.
The hearing was the latest step by the Senate in considering a “Carcieri fix” bill that would countermand the court’s ruling and allow for tribes such as the Narragansetts to have their lands be admitted to federal trust.
Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas of the Narragansett Indian Tribe was present at the hearing, along with two other tribal representatives. Thomas said that he wanted to be at the hearing because the Narragansett tribe played “a special part” in the initial court ruling.
“Obviously it affected our tribe as well as many other tribes across the country,” he said. “The whole point of Indian tribal acknowledgment is so that we can be self-sufficient.”
With the Carcieri decision, the court ruled that any tribe that was recognized after the Indian Recognition Act of 1934 was ineligible for federally entrusted land. The Narragansetts were recognized during the 1980s.
The ruling has been met with much controversy and opposition in recent years. On March 30, 2011, Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Hawaiian Democrat Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, introduced a piece of legislation to the committee that aims to “address problems created by the Supreme Court ruling in Carcieri v. Salazar.”
Sen. Akaka’s committee holding this hearing helped the push for a Carcieri fix gain traction.
“What I saw was a lot of individuals, not just Native Americans, who understand the importance of fixing this,” Thomas said of the hearing.
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