Establishing the Tribal Trust Modernization Task Force

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 Resolution #ECWS-14-007

TITLE: Establishing the Tribal Trust Modernization Task Force

WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and

WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and

WHEREAS, the federal government has a longstanding comprehensive trust responsibility to Indian tribes based on treaties, the Unites States Constitution, federal statutes, executive orders and judicial decisions; and

WHEREAS, many of the federal statutes and regulations governing the management, use and development of Indian lands and resources were adopted several decades ago and some over 100 years ago, creating a land management system based on outdated statutes, regulations and practices; and

WHEREAS, many federal statutes and regulations applicable to Indian lands, require the Bureau of Indian Affairs to follow lengthy and time consuming processes prior to approving surface land use, oil & gas and/or renewable energy transactions, contributing to protracted delays and uncertainties and often causing the failure of development proposals or diminished revenues to the tribe; and

WHEREAS, as an example, the Indian land leasing act, 25 USC 415(a), limiting the duration of Indian land leases to a maximum term of twenty-five years, was adopted almost sixty years ago but has been amended by Congress 49 times—sometimes multiple times in a single year—in order to provide specific tribes with relief from its statutory restrictions, generally to accommodate the tribes' needs for economic development; and

WHEREAS, at the request of and with widespread support from Indian Country, in 2012 the Congress adopted the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Home Ownership Act, providing tribes with a modernized land leasing option that allows participating tribes to enter into long-term leases of lands without approval of the Secretary of the Interior; and

WHEREAS, tribes from around the country have been calling on the Congress to adopt trust modernization legislation, including current bills such as S.165 and H.R. 409, which would authorize participating tribes to engage in comprehensive, integrated land use planning and development, with greater autonomy and self-determination, or H.R. 1548 of the current Congress or S.1684 of the 112th Congress, authorizing new options for tribes that wish to develop conventional and renewable energy resources on their lands; and

WHEREAS, in addition, the Trust Reform Commission authorized by the Claims Settlement Act of 2010, has recently issued a report setting forth recommendations for improving the trust management system; and

WHEREAS, there is a need to obtain input from tribes and tribal organizations around the Country and engage with them in examining the trust management system, including statutes, regulations, land and mineral management practices and procedures, the recommendations of the Trust Reform Commission, the barriers and impediments to economic development, investment and financing, and the need for comprehensive land use planning and development, flexibility and greater tribal authority in land use decision making.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the NCAI does hereby establish a Tribal Trust Modernization Task Force to assist in the coordination, collaboration, and outreach to Indian Country; to gather information from the tribes, Indian landowners, federal agencies and officials, experts and other appropriate stakeholders as determined by the Task Force; and to develop proposals and recommendations for modernizing the trust land and resource management system in a manner that is consistent with the federal trust responsibility, tribal treaty rights, the policy of Indian self-determination, and the authority and jurisdiction of tribes to manage the lands, waters, other resources, and the environment within their homelands; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Task Force shall be headed by two co-chairs appointed by the President of NCAI and the membership shall be open to any and all tribal leaders wishing to participate in the Tribal Trust Modernization project; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Task Force shall report its findings and recommendations from time to time to the full membership of NCAI and its Executive Council and, when its work is completed, shall issue a final report to the membership of and Executive Council of the NCAI; and




BE IT FURTHER RESOVED, that the Task Force shall consider the following as components of a broad modernization of the trust land system that promotes economic development and sustained job creation, restores tribal lands, and provides for the health and welfare of Indian people:

1. Indian Lands and the Federal Trust Responsibility
2. Self-Determination and Tribal Use of Lands
3. Federal Responsibilities for Title, Technical Assistance, and Prevention of Land Loss
4. Land Restoration
5. Land Consolidation
6. Natural Resources and the Environment
7. Taxation and Services on Tribal Lands
8. Access to capital and Financing Development on Indian Lands
9. Planning for Growth on Indian Lands
10. Updating Regulations, Policies and Procedures

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.


The foregoing resolution was adopted by the Executive Committee at the 2014 Executive Council Winter Session of the National Congress of American Indians, held at the Westin Washington City Center March 11 -13, 2014, in Washington, DC with a quorum present.