Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 3

June 24, 2013 TESTIMONY OF MR.

ERIC METCALF TRIBAL COUNCIL, COQUILLE INDIAN TRIBE Good Afternoon, Assistant Secretary Washburn, and thank you for the opportunity to speak about the Department's proposed changes to the process for finalizing Land in Trust Decisions. My name is Eric Metcalf and I serve on the Tribal Council of the Coquille Indian Tribe, which is located in Southern Oregon. As you may be aware, re-establishing a land base, both as a restored homeland for our people and to support stable and diversified economic development initiatives, is a priority for our tribal government. Our history makes this need particularly urgent. The present day Coquille people are descendants of the signers of the 1851 and 1855 Treaties - two of the many treaties that the United States Government failed to ratify. Our people were subject to the horrors of extermination, relocation and brutalization that followed the discovery of gold in our native lands. We lacked the brute power to protect against outside exploitation of our rich natural resources. The Coquille were supposed to disappear, to be merged with other tribal people in the coastal reservation established to concentrate Indian people in one place- and to free up their lands for others. Many Coquille people were rounded up and shipped out to that camp. Others hid out and some few escaped and made their way back. Many of them joined other tribal communities, but those of us who retained our separate identity clustered in a portion of our traditional area, maintaining a meager presence through allotments insofar as possible and traditional lifeways. In 1954, Congress terminated my Tribe, along with the other Oregon Tribes. But again we stayed. The Coquille Tribe was the last Oregon tribe to be restored, in 1989, through an Act of Congress that formally re-established the federal trust relationship and authorized the restoration of a land base for our now-dispersed people. The Act authorized the Secretary to acquire land in trust for the Tribe within a designated five county geographic area, including a mandatory 1000 acres in Coos and Curry Counties. We have that land base already, and some more land as authorized by the Act, which provides that all such trust lands shall be part of the Tribe's Reservation.

But we have not yet done enough to provide stability for our growing tribal population. We hope to expand our very successful forestry program, by acquiring additional land that we believe we could bring back into profitability through our highly regarded forest management program. We have applied for trust status for a small parcel of land, within our five county geographic area, near our second largest population base, for a modest class II gaming facility and a focus of tribal services for our community otherwise too far removed to benefit from many of our governmental programs. But, as you know, trust acquisitions are anything but routine. Like some of other tribes, we have already been informed that our proposed acquisition will face many years of well funded opposition dedicated to blocking our development. And such opposition, in recent years, has been increasingly successful in using the courts, not to win a bone fide dispute of law or fact, but to cause legitimate projects to die on the vine. That is why we strongly support your proposed changes to the regulations, but with a caveat. We applaud your proposal that a trust determination made by the Assistant Secretary be final for the Department, with prompt action to acquire the land and any challenges to proceed while the land is in trust status. After the Supreme Court's decision in Patchak, there is no longer any need for delay to provide opportunity for judicial review. The proposed change will squarely put the burden of undoing a trust acquisition on a challenging party, and end the current regime that essentially provides years of injunctive relief merely by filing a complaint. So, yes, , take the land in trust, and then allow us to defend the attacks together, after the full decision can take effect, not after an eternal wait beforehand. But we are concerned with the second part of your proposal, which provides that a decision made by a lesser official is not final, until after an opportunity for IBIA review. It sounds to us as if such IBIA appeal could effectively reinstate the eternal preliminary injunction or self-stay now in place given that IBIA review is seldom swift. And then the same decision would be subject to years of judicial review, although likely after the trust status is established. There are no time limits on IBIA action. Challenges have increased exponentially, and the IBIA's caseload could ensure years of delay just as is the case today. Any such provision would need to be coupled with some controls on time periods for such review with a presumption of a final period if a fixed time period has expired, depriving the IBIA of jurisdiction and deeming the decision final for the Department, with judicial review still available for a lingering challenge. We know that we will face well funded opposition, but we would not like to undergo the process for more years than necessary, given that we are confident that our Restoration Act more than adequately supports the Secretary's authority and duty to acquire these trust lands on our behalf. The other basis for our concern is the uncertainty of the decision process itself. At present, we expect that our gaming acquisition will be evaluated and determined in the office of the Assistant Secretary, but there is no guarantee. Although we are confident that such decisions

by this Administration will be made at the national office, future Administrations could void the rules effectiveness by delegating the decision to regional offices subject to the self-stay during an IBIA appeal. If the decision is delegated back to the Regional Office, then we will not have a final decision for some years, and the benefit of the proposal is lost to us. We have no expectation that our sophisticated opponents, many already identified, will fail to exhaust administrative remedies and leaving our application to languish an additional round within the Department can only cause more delay. We ask that you take steps to protect the remedial intention of the rule from worsening a difficult situation. By all means, please eliminate the 30 day waiting period for finality of trust decisions. Do not let frivolous litigation continue to control the trust relationship. But also do not create yet another opportunity for delay to frustrate that relationship. I am providing a written copy of my remarks today for the record. The Coquille Tribe will file a more exhaustive set of comments before the close of the formal comment period.

Thank you.