The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act of 2011 this week. Similar legislation already passed the U.S. House in May, 2012. President Obama is expected to sign the bill, which allows tribes to bypass obtaining U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s approval when entering into certain surface leases.
Passage of the bill was not expected. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, recommended the bill be put on hold until another bill, provides a clean Carcieri fix to resolve doubts that the U.S. Department of the Interior has the authority to put land into trust for tribes recognized by the federal government after 1934.
Rep. Martin Heinrich
, D-New Mexico, said, “This is about building homes, creating jobs and protecting tribal sovereignty. Indian country faces a serious housing shortage, and this bill will help bring new investment in housing and economic development to tribal communities across New Mexico”
The current Bureau of Indian Affairs
(BIA) process for lease requests has been problematic, which some leases taking years to complete. Tribal leaders are calling the passage of HEARTH Act as a great victory for Native American Tribes.