Senator Introduces Carcieri ‘Fix’ Legislation

For five years the Carcieri v. Salazar decision by the U.S. Supreme Court has been an irritant and an outrage to many Indian tribes. Senator Jon Tester (l.), chairman of the committee in charge of Indian affairs has introduced a bill to “fix” Carcieri.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester, the chairman of the Senate committee that oversees Indian tribes has introduced a bill that would “fix” the controversial Carcieri v. Salazar decision of 2009 by the U.S. Supreme Court that so many tribes would like to see gone.

The decision placed into doubt any land into trust transfers made by tribes that were recognized after 1934.

Tester’s bill would reaffirm that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has the right to take land into trust for any recognized tribe, no matter what date it was recognized.

In introducing the bill the senator said, “I know that there are a number of my colleagues who have an interest in this legislation and would like to see changes to this bill. I want to let you know that I stand ready to work with each of you to craft a bill that the Senate can enact and that will end this problem of two classes of tribes forever.”

According to Tester the Supreme Court decision has affected tribes all over the United States and caused tribes such as the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, to see their tribal status challenged in court and others to see their applications to put land into trust delayed.

He added, “Moreover, the Carcieri decision has spawned more harmful litigation, including Salazar v. Patchak, where the Supreme Court ruled that individuals have six years to challenge a tribe’s trust land acquisition, and Big Lagoon Rancheria v. California, where the Ninth Circuit essentially ruled that there is no time limit on challenging a tribe’s status or its trust land acquisitions.”

Tester has conceded that his bill faces an uphill battle, where some of the lions of the Senate, including California’s Dianne Feinstein, have vowed to fight it. Some of its most powerful opponents are other tribes who don’t want to see rivals put land into trust for casinos.

He called for a bipartisan approach to passing the bill. “We will not receive the full support of my Democratic colleagues, so the question becomes how we bargain with Republican leaders to make meaningful inroads to solve this issue,” he said.