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Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Judgement Fund Distribution Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PETERSON. I thank the gentleman.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 1272, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Judgment Fund Distribution Act.

Thirteen years ago, the United States Court of Federal Claims awarded and appropriated $20 million to the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. This settlement appropriation was to compensate the descendents of the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota for the improper valuation of timber and the taking of land under the Nelson Act of 1889. Now, because of the Indian Judgment Fund Act of 1983, Congress must pass legislation detailing how the settlement should be distributed amongst the six bands that make up the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Judgment Fund Distribution Act, H.R. 1272, authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to release the funds, plus interest that has been earned, that were appropriated into the trust fund for the Minnesota tribe in 1999. Being the expenses for prosecuting the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe claims were shared equally by all the bands, these expenses should be expended equally from the fund. H.R. 1272 requires that each of the six bands provide the Secretary with updated membership rolls. It directs the Secretary to set aside $300 to each member enrolled and to divide the remaining funds into equal shares for each band.

It is important to note that the CBO has concluded that H.R. 1272 does not need an appropriation and that it has no budgetary impact because the $20 million settlement proceeds were appropriated and paid to the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe in 1999. They've been there since 1999.

So I think it is high time that this settlement is finally distributed and put to work within these communities. The sooner we resolve this issue, the sooner these funds can be released and go to work within these economically depressed areas. There is a great need on these reservations for things like schools, health care facilities, and other infrastructure improvements.

I want to alert everybody that this is not unanimous. Five of the six tribes support this. This has been going on for 13 years, but this is as good as we can do. We don't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good, and it's time that we got this settled. I think it makes no sense for anybody to draw hard-line positions on this. Judging from experience, no hard-line position has ever succeeded, so it's time for everybody to come together and find an agreement that maybe not everybody loves but that everybody can benefit from.

That is what H.R. 1272 is. We encourage the adoption of the bill. Our folks back home would really appreciate getting this settled and letting these funds go to work on their reservations.

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