President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for the fiscal year of 2013 includes language that could have an immediate and direct impact on Charlestown, and would essentially overturn a court decision that originated right here in Rhode Island.
Under the budget’s general provisions in the section devoted to the Department of the Interior, there are two modifications to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. These modification, if passed into law, would overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling in Carcieri v. Salazar that determined the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, did not have the authority to entrust tribal lands of Indian tribes recognized after 1934.
Both modifications outlined in the budget would come in the Indian Reorganization Act’s Section 19, the last section of the act. Section 19 begins, “The term ‘Indian’ as used in this Act shall include all persons of Indian descent who are members of any recognized Indian tribe now under Federal jurisdiction...”
The legislation in the budget calls for the addition of the language “Effective beginning on June 18, 1934,” at the very beginning of section 19, and the elimination of the language “now under Federal jurisdiction.”
With the modifications to the act, the Narragansett Indian Tribe, along with any other tribe federally recognized after 1934, would be eligible to have their land be taken into federal trust by the Secretary of the Interior. The Narragansetts were federally recognized in the 1980s.
While the budget makes no official reference to Carcieri v. Salazar, the language modifications would countermand the court’s 2009 ruling. Former Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri’s action against Salazar prevented the Narragansetts from having their Charlestown land be federally entrusted, based on the court’s decision that “now under federal jurisdiction” meant that only tribes that were recognized when the act was passed in 1934 would be eligible.
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