September 13, 2018
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 2606 Wednesday, allowing land inherited by citizens of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole nations to remain restricted status even if the heir has less than one-half degree of Indian blood.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, president of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Tribes, worked with the five tribes to develop this important legislation to stop loss of restricted land. Baker also testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs in October 2017 in support of H.R. 2606. The Trump administration supports the bill.
Baker applauded the House’s action, led by Chickasaw Nation citizen Rep. Tom Cole and Cherokee Nation citizen Rep. Markwayne Mullin.
“This action means land preservation for our tribal citizens is fair and that our Cherokee families can better retain its land resources,” Baker said. “We have worked diligently for this move to recognize that the citizens of the five tribes deserve equality when it comes to this important land ownership issue.”
Together, the five tribes represent more than 650,000 tribal citizens throughout the United States, about one-quarter of the entire population of Indian County. The previous law passed in 1947 prevented heirs who were citizens of one of the five tribes from inheriting land in restricted status, resulting in loss of the land’s legal protections.
The legislation passed Wednesday clarifies heirs of the five tribes may maintain their restricted land regardless of the degree of blood of the landowner.
The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration.