Legislative Summary: Indians


Claims Commission 
S. 751— Public Law 87-48, approved June 16, 1961 
This measure extends the life of the Indian Claims Commission to April 10, 1967, an additional 5 years, or at such earlier time as the Commission shall have its final report to the Congress.

The Commission was established in 1946 to provide for a final disposition of all claims of Indian tribes against the United States that existed on the date of the act, August 13, 1946.

This extension is required in order that claims which the Indians have filed may be properly heard and decided; otherwise, the Indians will again resort to petitioning Congress for special jurisdictional acts to have their claims adjudicated.

There are 468 dockets now pending and active, some of which have been partly adjudicated and others in early stages of processing.

This act also provides for hearing examiners to assist the Commission in expediting its work. By assigning additional attorneys in the Justice Department to these claims cases, and attempting to reach settlements in cases which liability has been determined, a great many dockets can be disposed of. 

S. 200— Public Law 87-273, approved September 22, 1961 
This measure amends a 1956 act by increasing to $7,500,000 the annual authorization to carry out a vocational training program for American Indians residing on or near Indian reservations.

Although the Indian vocational training program has been in operation less than 5 years, it has become a most effective tool for equipping American Indians between the ages of 18 and 35 with salable work skills. These courses extend from 4 months to 2 years. In fiscal 1961 there were 1,700 students enrolled in various vocational programs throughout the United States. As of May 1, 1960, 743 Indians had completed training. 

Revolving Loan Fund 
S. 1540— Public Law 87-250, approved September 15, 1961 
Provides for an increase from $10 million to $20 million for the Indian revolving fund so that adequate funds will be available from which worthwhile projects may be financed. 


Menominees of Wisconsin New Self-Government  
H.R. 4130— Public Law 87-432, approved April 4, 1962  
Federal control over the Menominee Indians of Wisconsin ended on April 30 of 1961 and since that time the tribe has been adjusting to an independent self-government status. Many members of the tribe were concerned about their ability to meet such community problems as health, welfare, school, and other local services.

However, since obtaining independence, the members of the tribe established a new county, Menominee County. Primarily all of their income comes from their forest and timber operations and since the community financing is so largely dependent upon this one enterprise, Federal assistance is essential in the transitional period. Thus this act provides $438,000 for continuing construction of a sanitation system that had been started before termination of Federal control. It authorizes $660,000 in school aid over a 5 year period the amount for the first year is $220,000 which declines by 20 percent a year. 

Ponca Tribe of Native Americans 
S. 3174— Public Law 87-629, approved September 5, 1962 
Provided for the division of the tribal assets of the Ponca Tribe of Native Americans of Nebraska among the members and to terminate Federal supervision and control over the tribe after a final roll of the tribe has been completed and the majority has indicated their desire for a division.

All tribal property, valued at about $105,000, will be disposed of within 3 years, after the above events have taken place. Sets aside land for church, park, playground, or cemetery purposes, and each member of the tribe will be entitled to 5 acres of tribal land for homesite purposes at current market value. The remainder of the tribal land will be sold on the basis of competitive bids, subject to the right of any member to meet a high bid. The proceeds of all sales will be divided equally among the members, subject to setoffs for debts owed to the tribe or to the United States. 


Adult Indian Vocational Training 
S. 1868— Public Law 88-230, approved December 23, 1963 
Increases from $7,500,000 to $12 million a year the amount to be appropriated for the Indian vocational training program. This will permit requests for appropriations consistent with the present basic needs of the program. 

Colorado River Indian Reservation 
S. 2111— Passed Senate October 22; pending in House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee 
This bill fixes the beneficial ownership of the Colorado River Reservation as the property of the Colorado River Indian Tribes of the reservation. 

Expert Assistance for Indian Tribes 
H.R. 3306— Public Law 88-168, approved November 4, 1963 
Establishes a $900,000 revolving loan fund for the Secretary of Interior to make loans to Indian tribes for services of expert researchers and witnesses in prosecuting their cases before the Indian Claims Commission.

The loans will be interest bearing and repayable from the proceeds of the recovery. If there is no recovery the Secretary will decide whether the tribe is or is not to be relieved from its obligation to the Government.

Under the Indian Claims Commission Act of 1946, Indian tribes were granted 5 years to file claims against the United States. Eight hundred and fifty-two such claims have been filed, mostly seeking compensation for land takings. Four hundred and fifty of these claims are still pending before the Commission, many of which involve tribes that have insufficient means to finance the preparation of their cases. As a result, trials in a number of cases have been postponed; in other cases witnesses have been retained under contingent fee contracts which the Commission has held to be contrary to public policy. 

Indian Heirship 
S. 1049— Passed Senate October 11; pending in House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee 
The primary purpose of this bill is to provide the Secretary of Interior with authority to reduce the rapidly increasing number of Indian allotments in multiple ownership by:
Partition or sale or lands in heirship status, on application of the required number of Indian owners, where the partition or sale would be in the best interest of the Indian owners and not detrimental to the Indian tribe.

Providing for judicial partition or sale where non-Indian interests require.

Authorizing the Secretary to represent owners who are minors, non compos mentis, or could not be located.

Establishing procedure for selling heirship lands that will afford the owners full opportunity to obtain fair market value for their property and give the Indian owners and tribes preference rights to purchase the lands.

Increasing the Indian revolving credit loan fund from $20 million to $55 million so that individual Indians and tribes could borrow funds to purchase heirship tracts.

Providing for tribal land consolidation programs to permit maximum economic utilization of the land resource by Indians. 

Indian Long-term Leasing Act 
S. 48— Passed Senate August 28; pending in House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee 
Increases from 50 to 55 years the maximum term of individual and tribal lands for public, religious , educational, recreational, residential, and business purposes under the Indian Leasing Act of 1955. 

Kootenai Tribe 
S. 2139— Public Law 88231, approved December 23, 1963 
This bill provides for an award of approximately $380,000 to the Kootenai Tribe by the Indian Claims Commission.
The case before the Indian Claims Commission involved a claim based on the value of lands in Idaho and Montana taken by the United States under the treaty of July 16, 1855, without the consent of the Bonners Ferry Kootenai Band. The Commission found that the Bonners Ferry Kootenai were entitled to the value of approximately 1,160,000 acres of land in northwest Idaho and northwest Montana. The tribe has indicated it favors employment of the judgment fund for socioeconomic improvement of tribal members through a family plan program.