CONGRESSMAN AuCOIN INTRODUCES SILETZ RESTORATION ACT
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. AUCOIN) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. AUCOIN. Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege today to introduce legislation which will restore to the Confederated Tribes of Siletz the status of a federally recognized Indian tribe. I am pleased that my friend, the Senator from Oregon (Mr. HATFIELD) is today introducing companion legislation in the other body.
Federal supervision over this small western Oregon tribe was terminated by the act of August 13, 1954.
The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians are the descendants of a large number of tribes and bands of coastal Indians who were grouped on the 1.4 million acre Coast Reservation in Oregon in the 1850's. Many of these tribes and bands were forcibly removed from their homelands and transported to the reservation. Under constant pressure from increasing numbers of settlers, the once magnificent reservation steadily decreased in size and, when the tribe was terminated in 1954, the reservation comprised only about 7,900 acres. At the time of termination, there were less than 1,000 enrolled tribal members.
Termination was declared in 1953 to be the long-range goal of Federal Indian policy. It meant that the trust relationship which existed between the Federal Government and the various Indian tribes would be ended. Indian lands would lose their tax exempt status, the Federal Government would no longer be responsible for the social and economic well-being of individual Indians, and tribal governments would be dismantled.
A total of 13 termination acts were passed by Congress in the 1950's, one of which terminated all the small tribes and bands of western Oregon, including the Confederated Siletz. As a general proposition, Indians have suffered greatly under the policies of termination; the social and economic devastation which this ill-conceived policy has wrought on terminated tribes, including the Confederated Siletz, has been tremendous.
Termination of the Siletz Tribe has meant that while unemployment, health problems, alcoholism, and the school dropout rate have risen dramatically since the time of termination, the means for dealing with these problems have been withdrawn. The Siletz Tribe was terminated with little real thought and even less planning. Much-needed services were withdrawn at a time when the Indians were ill equipped and ill prepared to cope successfully with the mainstream of society.
Let me cite some of the startling facts to which termination of the Siletz Tribe contributed.
The most recent figures available indicate a 44-percent unemployment rate among Indians in Lincoln County, the majority of whom are Siletz.
The median family income of Indian families in the town of Siletz is $3,300 per year.
The Siletz public school in 1974 reported that 40 percent of Siletz Indians between the ages of 17 and 25 did not finish high school.
Roughly 70 percent of the Indian students in the Siletz School have only one parent due to the death of the other parent.
Twenty-three percent of the Indian children in grades 1 through 12 come from broken homes.
Indian children at Siletz School averaged 0.6 grade equivalent below the mean.
In a nonrandom sample of 84 Siletz Indians, 52.9 percent reported dental needs, and 21.8 percent reported visual needs.
Mr. Speaker, these figures bear sad witness to the misguided and inadvertent degradation of a once-proud people. We now have before us legislation which has the potential of correcting some of the injustice which history has cast upon the Indians of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz.
This legislation is an attempt to reverse the effects of the now-discredited termination policies of the 1950's. Before I continue, let me remind the Members of
what termination was and why it was so harmful. In doing so, it is not my intention to discredit the motives of those who supported the old termination policy, but to assert that, wittingly or unwittingly, this policy amounted to a backhanded way of shirking the solemn duties and responsibilities to which our Nation had committed itself.
You see, the Federal Government did not assume the role of guardian and trustee of Indian welfare and existence as an act of generosity toward a disadvantaged people. The special relationship between Indians and the Federal Government arose instead out of solemn commitments in the nature of contractual obligations. The Indians agreed to cede vast tracts of lands to the Federal Government and agreed not to take up arms against the settlers. In return for practically the entire land area of the Western United States and promises of peace, the Federal Government agreed to protect the Indians from the incursions of settlers within certain prescribed tracts of land, or reservations. Through formal treaties, acts of Congress, and formal and informal agreements, the United States guaranteed the Indians' possession of their lands and agreed to provide health, education, and other social services. These commitments continue to carry immense legal and moral force.
Indian reservations, and indeed the very nature of the Federal-Indian relationship, were intended to provide a structure whereby Indian culture could survive and flourish. The termination of tribal existence by unilateral Federal action is no more appropriate than the termination of the citizenship rights of any other American.
Mr. Speaker, termination simply did not work. While the Federal Government naively believed that termination would suddenly make full-fledged citizens out of Indians and afford them the opportunity to fully participate in society, experience has shown just the opposite to be true. In Oregon, where in addition to the 60 terminated western Oregon Tribes, we have the terminated Klamath Indian Tribe in southern Oregon, the result has created tremendous social disorientation among Indian people. Unemployment, alcoholism, the breakdown of the family unit, and already severe problems among Indian societies generally have become epidemic among terminated Indians. The Indian citizens with the most severe social problems, the most pronounced inability to function successfully in society, are those who have been told by the Federal Government that they are no longer recognized as Indians, that their tribe no longer exists that they are terminated.
Interestingly, the ill effects of termination have not been confined to members of those tribes which were terminated. President Nixon noted in his 1970 address on Indian affairs that the very threat of termination has created tremendous apprehension among tribes which are still recognized. As a result, "any step that might result in greater social, economic, or political autonomy is regarded with suspicion by many Indians who fear that it will only bring them closer to the day when the Federal Government will disavow its responsibility entirely and cut them adrift." The threat of termination has therefore actually worked to encourage excessive dependence upon the Federal Government.
That tribal termination is no longer the policy of either Congress or the administration can hardly be challenged.
In 1970, the administration called upon Congress to expressly repudiate House Concurrent Resolution No. 108, which had declared termination to be the long-range goal of Government Indian policy. In 1973, Congress enacted and the President signed the Menominee Restoration Act, which restored to the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin its status as a federally recognized tribe. And on December 7 of this year, in an official policy statement, the administration once again called upon Congress to expressly repudiate termination philosophies and repeal House Concurrent Resolution No. 108.
Like the Menominee legislation, the Siletz Restoration Act will provide the means for reestablishment of the tribal government. It will restore to the Siletz Indians a sense of Indian identity, which experience has shown cannot survive in the absence of tribal recognition. As a federally recognized tribe, the Siletz would once again be eligible to participate in much-needed Federal educational, health, and other social programs which are available only to members of federally recognized tribes. This legislation will restore a small 10-acre piece of land the tribe now owns to Federal trust protection and contains provisions for the Secretary of the Interior to take into trust additional lands which the tribe might purchase on its own. While it is true that any such lands would be tax exempt, there would be no loss of tax revenue to the local community because such a loss would enable the community to qualify for compensating impact aid under existing Federal law.
Mr. Speaker, the Siletz Tribe is not even asking the Government to return lands it formerly owned. The 10-acre reservation called for in this legislation is actually an Indian cemetery which was turned over to the Siletz Indians by the city of Siletz. This sign of community support speaks, I think, for itself.
Mr. Speaker, some may be reluctant to support restoration of the Siletz Tribe because they feel that by accepting monetary settlements at the time of termination, the Indians forfeited claim to any further Federal assistance. This, however, is an inaccurate interpretation. These payments simply compensated the tribe for the value of the land and buildings it gave up land and buildings the tribe has not regained and is not regaining now.
Mr. Speaker, this bill has also caused great concern among hunters and fishermen in Oregon. Because of recent court decisions, there are those who are concerned that Indian treaty rights may allow hunting and fishing by the Siletz and other tribes to be exempt from State management. But with or without this bill, that issue will still be before us and will have to be dealt with. Let us deal with that issue but, Mr. Speaker, let us not suspend justice for the Siletz in the meantime. For this reason, it is wrong to encumber this legislation with a separate issue. I commend the tribe, however, for going so far as to agree to language in section 3(c) stating that the act does not grant or restore any hunting, fishing, or trapping rights of any nature to the tribe or its members. This bill has two goals, and two goals only: To allow the Siletz Indians to regain their sense of tribal identity, and to make them eligible once again for health, educational, and other social benefits.
Mr. Speaker, when we examine the particular history and present status of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz, we find that the case for restoration of tribal status is especially compelling. The Confederated Siletz are the contemporary representatives of a large number of tribes and bands of western Oregon Indians, many of which were forcibly removed by the Army from their homelands and transported to the Coast Reservation in the 1850's. Through this process of forced removal and relocation, by no means unique in the history of our westward expansion, these small Tribes were uprooted from their homeland and forced into a state of dependency upon the United States Government. In exchange either for their lives or promises of food, health care, educational benefits and a home free from the incursions of white men, the Indians relinquished their claims to the lands of their ancestors. The once self-sufficient hunters and fishermen were encouraged by the Indian agents to abandon their nomadic habits and take up agriculture on land which was generally unsuited for farming. The continual failure of Indian farms forced the Government to provide special assistance, thereby increasing Indian dependence upon the Federal Government. The Bureau of Indian Affairs managed the operation, leasing, and sale of tribal enterprises and assets, thereby depriving the Indians of the opportunity to develop the skills and motivations usually associated with private ownership and management of property. Indians were second class citizens, unable to vote, sign contracts, or purchase alcohol.
By depriving the Siletz of their homelands and their means of subsistence, and by creating this state of dependency upon the Federal Government, the United States thereby assumed legal and moral obligations to the Siletz Indians.
Wisely, the Congress and the administration are today no longer seeking to foster this state of excessive dependency. Congress is instead attempting to provide the opportunity for true self-determination among existing, legally recognized tribes. But for the confederated Siletz, the means whereby they might have benefited through these enlightened policies were withdrawn at the moment of termination. Instead, the Siletz were tossed abruptly from a state of almost total dependency into a state of total independ-
ence. This disorientation created by termination was massive, and its effects are pronounced even today.
Siletz Indians were told by Bureau officials to leave the only way of life they had known and begin to participate fully in society. But they were not accepted as equals by the dominant culture, nor were they any longer accepted as Indians by other tribes which had not been terminated. The Siletz were lost between two cultures.
Mr. Speaker, the restoration effort has the support of Governor Straub of Oregon, virtually all units of local government in the area, and many newspapers around the State. But the real measure of support can be found among the Siletz Indians themselves. Unlike most pieces of Federal Indian legislation, this bill is the product of lengthy deliberations on the part of tribe members. The tribe has been working toward the goal of restoration for over 3 years and there has been a remarkable resurgence of tribal identity centered around the restoration effort. Tribal meetings have been consistently well attended and the grassroots support for restoration among tribal members is strong and widespread.
In the final analysis, Mr. Speaker, we have a solemn and continuing duty to meet the needs of our Indian citizens, particularly where those needs can be met consistent with established policy. Indeed, we would be remiss were we to fail to act. The desirability of this legislation cannot be gaged solely in terms of minimal Federal expenditure and widespread popular support. It can be judged on the fundamental rightness of the cause. I submit to my colleagues that the Siletz cause is right and I urge their support of this bill.
The text of the bill follows:
A bill to appeal the Act terminating Federal supervision over the property and members of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon; to reinstitute the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon as a federally-recognlzed sovereign Indian tribe; and to restore to the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon and the members those Federal services and benefits furnished to federally-recognlzed American Indian tribes and their members; and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the "Siletz Restoration Act".
SEC. 2. For the purpose of this Act
(1) The term "tribe" means the Confederated Tribe of Siletz Indians of Oregon, which is comprised of any tribes and bands, or remnants thereof, which were represented on the membership roll of the tribe which was published in the Federal Register on July 26, 1956.
(2) The term "Secretary" means the Secretary of the Interior.
(3) The term "Siletz Interim Council" means that council of nine Siletz Indians who shall be elected pursuant to sections 4(a) and 4(b) of this Act.
SEC. 3. (a) Notwithstanding the applicable provisions of the Act of August 13, 1954 (68 Stat. 724-28; 25 U.S.C. 691-708), or any other law, Federal recognition is hereby extended to the Tribe and the provisions of the Act of June 18, 1934 (25 U.S.C. [section symbol] 461, et seq.) are made applicable to it. The Tribe and its members shall be entitled to all Federal services and benefits furnished to federally-recognized Indian tribes and their members.
(b) The Act of August 13, 1954 (68 Stat. 724-28; 25 U.S.C. [section symbol] 691-708), to the extent such act is applicable to the tribe, is hereby repealed. There are hereby reinstated all rights and privileges of the tribe or its members, except for hunting, fishing, and trapping rights, under Federal treaty, executive order, agreement, statute, or otherwise which may have been diminished or lost pursuant to the Act of August 13, 1954 (68 Stat. 724-28; 25 U.S.C. [section symbol] 691-708).
(c) This Act shall not grant or restore any hunting, fishing, or trapping rights of any nature to the tribe or its members.
(d) Except as specifically provided in this Act, nothing contained in this Act shall alter any property rights or obligations, any contractual rights or obligations, or any obligations for taxes already levied.
(e) In providing to the tribe such services to which it may be entitled upon its recognition pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, the Secretary and the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, as appropriate. are authorized, from funds appropriated pursuant to the Act of November 2, 1921 (25 U.S.C. 13); the Act of August 5, 1954 (68 Stat. 674); the Act of January 4, 1975 (88 Stat. 2203); or any other Act authorizing appropriations for the administration of Indian affairs, upon the request of the tribe and subject to such terms and conditions as may be mutually agreed to, to make grants and contract to make grants which will accomplish the general purposes for which the funds were appropriated. The Siletz Interim Council shall have full authority and capacity to be a party to receive such grants to make such contracts, and to bind the tribal governing body as the successor in interest to the Siletz Interim Council: Provided, however, That the Siletz Interim Council shall have no authority to bind the tribe for a period of more than six months after the date on which the tribal governing body takes office.
SEC. 4. (a) Within fifteen days after the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall announce the date of a general council meeting of the tribe to nominate candidates for election to the Siletz Interim Council. Such general council meeting shall be held within thirty days of the date of enactment of this Act. Within forty-five days of the general council meeting provided for herein, the Secretary shall hold an election by secret ballot, absentee balloting to be permitted, to elect the membership of the Siletz Interim Council from among the nominees submitted to him from the general council meeting provided for herein. The ballots shall provide for write-in votes. The Secretary shall approve the Siletz Interim Council elected pursuant to this section if he is satisfied that the requirements of this section relating to the nominating and election process have been met. The Siletz Interim Council shall represent the Siletz people in the implementatlon of this Act and shall be the interim tribal governing body until tribal officials are elected pursuant to Section 5(c) of this Act. The Siletz Interim Council shall have no powers other than those given to it in accordance with this Act. The Siletz Interim Council shall have no power or authority under this Act after the time which the duly-elected tribal governing body take office: Provided, however, That this provision shall in no way invalidate or affect grants or contracts made pursuant to the provisions of section 3(e) of this Act.
(b) In the absence of a completed tribal roll prepared pursuant to subsection (d) hereof and solely for the purposes of the general council meeting and the election provided for in subsection (a) hereof, all living persons on the final roll of the tribe published under section 3 of the Act of August 13, 1954 (25 U.S.C. 693), and all descendants, who are at least eighteen years of age and who possess at least one-fourth degree of Siletz Indian blood, of persons on such roll shall be entitled to attend, participate, and vote at such general council meeting and such election. Verification of descendancy, age, and blood quantum shall be made upon oath before the Secretary or his authorized representative and his determination thereon shall be conclusive and final. The Secretary shall assure that adequate notice of such meeting and election shall be provided eligible voters.
(c) If vacancies occur on the Siletz Interim Council the Siletz Interim Council shall hold a general council meeting within thirty (30) days after receiving written notice of such vacancy. The Siletz Interim Council shall give at least ten (10) days notice of such general council meeting. Any vacancy or vacancies shall be filled at such general council meeting after nominations have been made at such general council meeting. The person or persons receiving the highest number of votes shall fill the vacancy or vacancies. Eligibility to vote at such general council meeting shall be determined by the procedures provided for in subsection (b) hereof except that verification of descendancy, age, and blood quantum shall be made upon oath before the Siletz Interim Council and their determination thereon shall be conclusive and final. The Siletz Interim Council shall assure that adequate notice of such meeting and election shall be provided eligible voters.
(d) The membership roll of the tribe which was published in the Federal Register on July 12, 1956 is hereby declared open. The Secretary, under contract with the Siletz Interim Council, shall proceed to make current the roll in accordance with the terms of this Act. The names of all enrollees who are deceased as of the date of enactment of this Act shall be stricken. All persons shall be added to the roll who were entitled to be included on the roll of July 12, 1956 but who were not, for whatever reason, included on that roll. The names of any descendants of an enrollee shall be added to the roll provided such descendant possesses at least one-fourth degree Siletz Indian blood. Upon installation of elected constitutional officers of the tribe, the Secretary and the Siletz Interim Council shall deliver their records, files, and any other material relating to enrollment matters to the tribal governing body. All further work in bringing and maintaining current the tribal roll, including the determination of membership in the tribe, shall be performed by the tribe in such a manner as may be prescribed in accordance
with the tribal governing documents. Until responsibility for the tribal roll is assumed by the tribal governing body, appeals from the omission or inclusion of any name upon the tribal roll shall lie with Secretary and his determination thereon shall be final. The Secretary shall make the final determination of each such appeal within ninety days after an appeal is initiated.
SEC. 5. (a) Upon request from the Siletz Interim Council the Secretary shall conduct an election by secret ballot, pursuant to the provisions of the Act of June 18, 1934, for the purpose of determining the tribe's constitution and by-laws. The election shall be held within sixty days after final certification of the tribal roll.
(b) The Siletz Interim Council shall distribute to all enrolled persons who are entitled to vote in the election, at least thirty days before the election, a copy of the constitution and by-laws as drafted by the Siletz Interim Council which will be presented at the election, along with a brief impartial description of the constitution and by-laws. The Siletz Interim Council shall freely consult with persons entitled to vote in the election concerning the text and description of the constitution and by-laws. Such consultation shall not be carried on within fifty feet of the polling places on the date of the election.
(c) Within one hundred and twenty days after the tribe adopts a constitution and by-laws, the Siletz Interim Council shall conduct an election by secret ballot for the purpose of determining the individuals who will serve as tribal officials as provided in the tribal constitution and by-laws. For the purpose of this initial election and notwithstanding any provision in the tribal constitution and by-laws to the contrary, absentee halloting shall be permitted and all tribal members who are eighteen years of age or over shall be entitled to vote in the election. All further elections of tribal officers shall be as provided in the tribal constitution and by-laws and ordinances adopted thereunder.
(d) In any election held pursuant to this section, the vote of a majority of those actually voting shall be necessary and sufficient to effectuate the adoption of a tribal constitution and by-laws and the initial election of the trIbe's governing body, so long as, in each such election, the total vote cast is at least 30 percent of those entitled to vote.
SEC. 6. (a) The Secretary shall negotiate with the Siletz Interim Council to develop a plan for the assumption of the assets of the tribe. The Secretary shall submit such plan to the Congress within six months from the date of the enactment of this Act.
(b) If neither House of Congress shall have passed a resolution of disapproval of the plan within sixty (60) days of the date the plan is submitted to Congress, the Secretary shall, subject to the terms and conditions of the plan negotiated pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, accept the assets of the tribe, but only if transferred to him by the tribe subject to the laws of Oregon. Such assets shall be subject to all valid existing rights, including, but not limited to, liens, outstanding taxes (local. State, and Federal), mortgages. outstanding corporate indebtedness of all types, and any other obligation. The land and other assets transferred to the Secretary pursuant to this subsection shall be subject to foreclosure or sale pursuant to the terms of any valid existing obligation in accordance with the laws of the State of Oregon. Subject to the conditions imposed by this section, the land transferred shall be taken in the name of the United States in trust for the tribe and shall be their reservation. The transfer of assets authorized by this section shall be exempt from all local, State and Federal taxation. All assets transferred under this section shall, as of the date of transfer, be exempt from all local, State, and Federal taxation.
(c) The Secretary shall accept the real property (excluding any real property not located in or adjacent to the former boundaries of the reservation) of members of the tribe, but only if transferred to him by the Slletz owner or owners. Such property shall be subject to all valid existing rights including, but not limited to, liens, outstanding taxes (local, State, and Federal), mortgages, and any other obligations. The land transferred to the Secretary pursuant to this subsection shall be subject to foreclosure or sale pursuant to the terms of any valid existing obligation in accordance with the laws of the State of Oregon. Subject to the conditions imposed by this subsection, the land transferred shall be taken in the name of the United States in trust for the tribe and shall be part of their reservation. The transfer of assets authorized by this section shall be exempt from all local, State, and Federal taxation. All assets transferred under this section shall, as of the date of transfer, be exempt from all local, State, and Federal taxation.
(d) The Secretary and the Siletz Interim Council shall consult with appropriate State and local government officials to assure that the provision of necessary governmental services is not impaired as a result of the transfer of assets provided for in this section.
SEC. 7. The Secretary is hereby authorized to make such rules and regulations as are necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act.
SEC. 8. There are hereby authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act.