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REPORT OF WASHINGTON TRIP BY TRIBAL COUNCIL

AGENCY BUILDINGS

 

During one of our conferences with Congressman Burdick [Mar 24, 1952] , we talked with him and our attorney about the possibility of obtaining the right to salvage certain Government buildings that will be inundated and that we’re covered by the set-off in our claim cases. This was left for further investigation by the Tribal Attorney.

 

AMENDMENTS TO ACT NO. 437

 

            Your Council has been trying for a long time to obtain amendment s to Act No. 437 pursuant to which lands are to be taken for Garrison Reservoir. One of the principal accomplishment s of the present delegation to Washington was to obtain a commitment from both the House Sub-committee on Indian Affairs and from the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs that the two bills previously submitted for this purpose would be set down for hearing on or about April 4.   The House bill H.R. 4635, introduced by Congressman Burdick, will be heard on April 4 before the House Indian Subcommittee. We have a promise from Mr. Grorud, Indian Adviser of the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs that the bill introduced by Senator Young, S.1830, will be heard early the following week.

We intend to return to Washington with at least a quorum of the Council for the purpose of attending these hearings.

The principal effect of the two bills that we have sponsored would be to restore to the Tribe and to the members in the taking area the mineral rights under the waters of the reservoir. Another important effect of the bill would be

to restore to the Indians the right to use the shores of the reservoir, which have now been taken from them, for grazing, fishing, resort purposes, and otherwise.

We feel that there are at least two things which will now make it a little easier for us to get these bills thru. One is the fact that there is a move on in Congress to give back to the former owners of other lands (white people) the mineral rights on lands acquired by the United States under the various emergency relief Acts and under the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act. Therefore, we are in a position in this regard very similar to that of white people in the area. We hope between us and these other former owners of Federal lands that we will be able to bring sufficient influence to bear to get our bill thru as well as the ones that they want to get thru.

The other factor which makes our chances of getting these amendments thru Congress more favorable is the fact that we are now in the midst of a test case to challenge the validity of Act #437. If we are successful in this, we can force the whole issue before Congress again and require reconsideration of our claim that certain rights and privileges were taken away from us needlessly and unjustly. Perhaps by raising these objections to the constitutionality of the law, we will be able to create a bargaining weapon that will get for us a return of so me of the privileges that were unjustly taken from us under Act No. 437.

In obtaining the hearings on these bills, we want to express our gratitude to both Senator Young and to Congressman Burdick, who were most active in obtaining said hearings for us.

During our conference of March 24,1952, with Commissioner Myer, we asked the Commissioner to supply us with a copy of the Department's report on H.R. 4635. The Commissioner said that the report was still tied up in the Budget Bureau and had not yet reached Congress and that we could not have a copy of it until after it had been cleared by the Budget Bureau. However, he indicated that we would have the support of the Indian Bureau in our demands for changes in the law.

 

APPROPRIATIONS

During our conference of March 19 with Senator Young, we discussed the possibility of appearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee on two questions of importance to the Tribe. The first of these is the question of re-establishment of our high school, and the other is the matter of the appropriation for the construction of roads into the Western Segment. Senator.  Senator Young indicated that when the appropriation hearings are held he would try to get us an opportunity to appear before the Committee.

CONSTITUTION

Please refer to Page 5 of our report of December 23 on our previous delegation to Washington. On that page, we talked about needing a technical amendment to the tribal constitution in order to permit the Tribe to acquire land in connection with its general program. At present} the Tribe is not permitted to purchase allotments that are not in heirship status. We have had considerable correspondence with the Commissioner in this matter, and the necessary resolution has now been adopted. During our present visit to Washington, we conferred with the Commissioner about this matter, and told him about our desire that the election be held over a two-day period instead of in one day, so that the necessary minimum 30% of the vote will surely be brought out.

 

CONTRACT

Another matter in which we participated during our present trip to Washington was the investigation of tribal attorney contracts. There seems to be an attempt on the part of certain Senators to find something sinister about

the previous activities of our Tribal Attorney. Hearings for that purpose have been going on now for a couple of months. Councilmen Carl Whitman and Ben Youngbird were called before the Senate Sub-committee on Indian Attorney Contracts and required to testify with regard to Mr. Curry's activities at Fort Berthold.

We also talked with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs about the demand of the "rump delegation” that an attorney be approved for them by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. The Commissioner stated that he had no intention of approving any attorney for anybody who does not have authority to represent a tribe. He

pointed out, however, that any group of people, Indian or white, has a perfect right to hire its own attorney without asking any permission from the Com- missioner of Indian Affairs.

DELEGATION

The delegation arrived in Washington on March 18 as the result of a message received from Commissioner Myer thru Area Director Cooper and Superintendent Quinn. Mr. Myer felt, in view of the charges that were made by the rump delegation in Washington, that the delegation ought to be sent in immediately. Pursuant to authority previously granted for such emergency purposes, the Chairman appointed himself, Carl Whitman, Ben Youngbird and Sam Matthews as delegates. It was impossible to reach Sam Matthews in time for the departure of the delegation, but the other three delegates proceeded to Washington.

EDUCATION

On March 19, we conferred with Senator Young about the question of re-establishment of the high school, and he suggested that we obtain a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the question. The Appropriations Bill has just been reported out and will not come before the Senate Committee probably for several months. We are planning to request a hearing at the appropriate time"

We also conferred with Commissioner Myer on this question on the 24th. It was agreed that there is no question, about re-establishment of the elementary Indian schools on the Reservation. However, there is a serious question whether the high school will be re-established.

     The Chairman presented the Commissioner with a copy of the minutes of the Inter-Agency Group, stating that the demands of the Indians for re-establishment of the high school had the support of the political bodies surrounding the Reservation. Commissioner Myer stated that the policy of the Bureau under his, management is to get out of the school business as rapidly as possible. He said that they would try to avoid having an Indian high school at Fort Berthold. His attention was called to the fact that the Government owes an obligation to the Indians in connection with the Garrison Dam Project to re-establish all of the Agency facilities that will be flooded out. It was suggested to him that whether or not high-school education of the Indians is going to be transferred to State authorities, the high school ought to be rebuilt on the Reservation, and perhaps later turned over to State authorities.

Commissioner Myer said that he was working with the Office of Education on a revision of Public Law 815, which provides for Federal aid to local school authorities where the school population is increased thru Federal activities. Such an amendment would make it easier for the Federal Government to make grants and loans to such local agencies. He said he hoped these amendments to Public Law 815 would solve the Fort Berthold school question.

Carl Whitman spoke to the Commissioner about the danger, if Indians go to public schools, that most of the Indians will be divided among several school districts and therefore that they will lose control of the schools

where their children attend. The discussion ended with the delegation and the Commissioner still in disagreement about the question of re-establishment of our High School.

Tribal Business Council

Three Affiliated Tribes

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