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LEGISLATIVE HEARING ON H.R. 791, TO PROVIDE FOR THE EQUITABLE SETTLEMENT OF CERTAIN INDLAN LAND DISPUTES REGARDING LAND IN ILLINOIS; AND H.R. 521, TO AMEND THE ORGANIC ACT OF GUAM FOR THE PURPOSE OF AMENDING THE LOCAL JUDICIAL STRUCTURE OF GUAM.
Wednesday, May 8, 2002
The Committee met, pursuant to call, at 10:04 a.m., in room 1334, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. James Hansen (Chairman of the Committee) presiding. STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES HANSEN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF UTAH The CHAIRMAN. The Committee will come to order. Today's hearing is on two bills that address very different issues. The first is H.R. 791, which was introduced by Congressman Tim Johnson in response to the Miami Tribe's lawsuit against private landowners in Illinois. H.R. 791 seeks to extinguish all land claims in Illinois asserted by the Miami and Ottawa Tribes of Oklahoma and the Potawatomi Tribe of Kansas and provides the tribes with recourse to pursue their claims against the United States in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
The CHAIRMAN. The second bill is H.R. 521, introduced by Congressman Underwood. This legislation attempts to amend the Organic Act of Guam to modify the internal structure of the Guam local court system. H.R. 521 has generated a great deal of controversy in Guam over whether U.S. Congress or the local Guam Government is in the best position to address the internal structure of the local courts.
The CHAIRMAN. We appreciate the efforts of the witnesses in being here today and look forward to hearing from them this morning. I would like to express special thanks to Justice Carbullido and Judge Lamorena for literally traveling halfway around the world to be at this hearing.
Before we begin with our first panel, I would like to mention that the administration, in lieu of presenting testimony today on H.R. 791 has submitted a letter for the record.
Is there objection?
I have a number of things to do today, and I have asked my good
Congress from the State of Utah
The Second bill is H.R. 521, introduced by Congressman Underwood. This legislation attempts to amend the Organic Act of Guam to modify the internal structure of the Guam local court system. H.R. 521 has generated a great deal of controversy in Guam over whether U.S. Congress or the local Guam Government is in the best position to address the internal structure of the local courts.
We appreciate the efforts of the witnesses in being here today and look forward to hearing from them this morning. I would like to express special thanks to Justice Carbullido (Car-bo-lee-doe) and Judge Lamorena [La-mo-ren-a] for literally traveling half-way around the world to be at this hearing. Before we begin with our first panel I would like to mention that the Administration, in lieu of presenting testimony today on H.R. 791, has submitted a letter for the record.
STATEMENT OF HON. J.D. HAYWORTH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ARIZONA Mr. HAYWORTH. [presiding] Mr. Chairman, we thank you. We will move forward to panel one, which currently includes two of our members. We also would make note that our other colleague from Illinois, Mr. Phelps, may join us, and we would certainly welcome his statements as well for the record.
But the Chair would first call on our colleague from Illinois, the author of H.R. 791, the Honorable Timothy V. Johnson.
Congressman Johnson, the Chair and the Committee are very happy to hear your testimony and welcome you to the Resources Committee, sir. And we would point out for the record that your statements would be put in the record in their entirety, and we thank you for your testimony today. That will be true for every witness who joins us.
Thank you, sir, and welcome.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. TIMOTHY V. JOHNSON, A A
REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
Mr. JOHNSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing regarding Indian land claims in Illinois. I also want to thank the Members of the House Resources Committee for their time and attention today.
In the summer of 2000, 15 landowners in east-central Illinois received notice that the Miami Indian Tribe of Oklahoma was suing them. These 15 individuals from 15 separate counties were told that they were being sued because the Miami was claiming that some 2.6 million acres in east-central Illinois rightfully belonged to them under a treaty, the Treaty of Grouseland, signed in 1805.
Illinois was granted statehood in 1818, a full 13 years after the Treaty of Grouseland was signed by the U.S. Government and the Miami Tribe. For this reason, I introduced H.R. 791. Basically, the legislation will waive sovereign immunity and says that if, in fact, there is a valid claim—and we do not make judgment on that—the claim is to be filed against the Federal Government and not against innocent landowners, 15 of whom have been specifically named; one of whom is over 100 years old and a good friend of mine in the Champaign County area, and a number of others over whom a cloud hangs on their title anytime land is transferred in this 2.6 million acre area.
As I indicated, the Potawatomi and Ottawa Tribe have also made similar claims in Speaker Hastert's district, and that provision is included in this bill. There is a significant problem not only with the sword of Damocles, so to speak, hanging over the head of a number of landowners—all the landowners—in a wide, multicounty area, including part of the area that is in the current 19th District but obviously with the transference of land within that area.
Whether or not there is a valid claim and there is no question there have certainly been examples throughout history of wrongs committed on Native Americans--my constituents are innocent. This treaty was executed before Illinois was a state. They have done nothing wrong, and the whole essence of this bill is to say we want to provide justice for everyone, and we want to assure once and for all that people in 2.6 million acres do not have to live with the potential of losing their land.
I believe that this is a just bill, a just approach, a shotgun approach—a rifle approach as opposed to a shotgun approach that is sometimes taken. There is counterpart legislation in the Senate. I have reason to believe that this ought to enjoy and has enjoyed widespread support, and I certainly appreciate, Mr. Chairman, yours and the other members of the Committee's consideration here, consideration of what I think is a very common sense bill. I appreciate it. [The prepared statement of Mr. Johnson follows:] Statement of The Honorable Timothy V. Johnson, a Representative in
Congress from the State of Illinois Thank you Chairman Hansen, for holding this important hearing regarding Indian land claims in Illinois. I also want to thank the Members of the House Resources Committee for their time and attention today.
In the summer of 2000, fifteen landowners in east-central Illinois received notice the Miami Indian Tribe of Oklahoma was suing them. These 15 individuals from 15 separate counties were told they were being sued because the Miami was claiming that some 2.6 million acres rightfully belonged to them under a treaty, the Treaty of Grouseland signed in 1805.
Illinois was granted statehood in 1818, a full 13 years after the Treaty of Grouseland was signed by the United States Government and the Miami Tribe. For this reason, I introduced H.R. 791. Basically, the legislation will waive sovereign immunity and allow the tribe to file its claim in the U.S. Federal Court to seek settlement. I'm not in front of this Committee today to say whether the Miami tribe is right or wrong in its pursuit of this claim. I am here today, however, to say that the property owners of east-central Illinois should not be part of this claim. The Miami's fight should not be with the hard-working, honest citizens of Illinois, nor should it be with the state of Illinois, but rather with the Federal Government.
I am not opposed to the Miami Indian Tribe as a society within our great nation. I fact, I am encouraged by their stature and their ability to diversify our country and influence cur future. And, I will concede that at one point in our nation's history, the Miami may have been rightful owners of the land they are now trying to reclaim. However, I do not feel they are justified in victimizing hard working landowners who live within the area I represent. Those families have owned and paid taxes on their land, in some cases for many generations. The Miami Indian Tribe alleges that the U. S. Government never properly obtained land title from them as required by the 1805 Treaty. Therein lies the dispute.
No one would argue that Native Americans were not wronged in our country's past. We would also welcome all attempts to improve the standard of living to which our Native Americans are subject. However, the landowners of east central Illinois should not pay this price.
Just over a year ago, Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert and I, visited the home of one of the landowners being sued. His name is Rex Walden of Urbana, Illinois. Mr. Walden is a 98-year-old retired farmer. He told the Speaker and I about his life spent on the farm. All he wants now is to leave the farm to his children. Mr. Walden worked the farm and paid taxes all his life. To be sued and face the possibility that he could lose that land because of a 200 year-old treaty is unjust, at best.
The problem goes beyond Rex Walden and the 14 other landowners. A cloud has been cast over the titles of all property in the 2.6 million acre region. Imagine if you were thinking of locating a business in east central Illinois. Why locate in the region in question when you could locate that business, those jobs, and that tax revenue outside that region?
In closing, I want to thank you again, Chairman Hansen and the Members of the House Resources Committee for holding this hearing. This issue, while regional in scope, is of the utmost importance to the citizens of my congressional district in east central Illinois.
Mr. HAYWORTH. Congressman Johnson, we thank you for your testimony.
Now, we turn to your colleague from the 20th District of Illinois,
REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF
Mr. SHIMKUS. Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Resources Committee. It is a pleasure to be here today on H.R. 791, a bill that would protect private landowners in Illinois from American Indian claims to their land.
The bill was introduced by my friend and colleague, Mr. Tim Johnson, and I want to thank you for the opportunity to debate and discuss this.
First, I would like to commend Congressman Johnson for introducing this important piece of legislation. During my campaign for