Twenty-three tribes now can approve and manage surface leases on tribal lands, exercising self-determination and tribal governance within their homelands
Published January 7, 2o16
WASHINGTON – Acting Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Lawrence S. Roberts Tuesday, January 5, 2016, announced that Ohkay Owingeh now has the sovereign authority to lease tribal landsconsistent with the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (or HEARTH) Act. Roberts was joined by Ohkay Owingeh Governor Earl N. Salazar and United States Senator Martin Heinrich at a signing ceremony approving the tribe’s leasing regulations that took place yesterday at the Pueblo in New Mexico.
“I congratulate Governor Salazar and the Ohkay Owingeh council for their leadership in using the HEARTH Act to end the paternalistic policy of federal approval of tribal leasing decisions,” acting Assistant Secretary Roberts said. “Ohkay Owingeh joins a growing number of tribes that are exercising sovereignty over the leasing of their lands to promote the health, welfare and prosperity of their people. By this action, decision making over the use of tribal land is now squarely in the hands of the tribal government. I am very pleased that Ohkay Owingeh has exercised this power to use its own judgement for its own lands.”
“We are now able to establish and carry out these laws. As an entrepreneurial tribe, we look forward to working with local businesses,” Governor Salazar said. “It all comes back to sovereignty and, finally, we have control over our land to help support our people.”
“I’m honored to join the people of Ohkay Owingeh to mark this milestone in strengthening self-determination and tribal sovereignty, and open doors to more jobs and economic development in Indian Country,” Senator Heinrich said. “The last thing the federal government should do is stand in the way of a family who wants to buy a home. This agreement through the HEARTH Act will make it easier for Native families to buy houses and open businesses in the communities where their families have lived for generations.”
The acting Assistant Secretary’s action confirms that federal approval is no longer necessary for Ohkay Owingeh, a federally recognized tribe in northcentral New Mexico, to enter into surface land leases. The Pueblo will exercise authority over leases for agricultural, business, cultural, educational, residential, wind and solar power, and other authorized purposes.
The HEARTH Act creates a voluntary, alternative land leasing process available to federally recognized tribes once their governing leasing regulations have been approved by the Secretary of the Interior. Tribes with approved regulations are authorized to negotiate and enter into surface leases without further approvals by the Secretary. The Act authorizes tribes to execute agricultural and business leases of tribal trust lands for a primary term of 25 years and up to two renewal terms of 25 years each. Leases of tribal trust lands for residential, recreational, religious or educational purposes may be executed for a primary term of up to 75 years.