Placing land in trust for tribes is one ofthe most solemn actions the federal government takes regarding American Indians. For this reason, it is imperative for the Subcommittee to obtain a clear understanding of the laws and policies concerning when, where, and under what process fee lands should be acquired in trust.
Today the Committee is going to hear from tribal leaders and a private landowner concerning two separate disputes. The two cases highlight challenges facing tribes and non-tribal interests trying to resolve disagreements over creating new trust land areas outside existing Indian reservations.
As the Subcommittee examines these cases, a question we may wish to consider is whether current law is adequate for these controversies to be settled without intervention of the Congress or the Department of the Interior.
The two cases before us today involve the Navajo and Zuni tribes negotiating over the division ofthe Fort Wingate Army depot, which was closed under the Base Realignment and Closure Act process ... and the Chumash Indians and non-tribal landowners in the Santa Ynez Valley, where the Chumash tribal government wishes to increase its trust land base over which to exercise
Leading off the hearing will be the Director of the Bureau ofIndian Affairs, who will give us an overview of the agency's fee-to-trust process, and a status update on the Fort Wingate lands.
I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today and now recognize the Ranking Member Forany opening statement he may have.