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Mon April 4, 2011
Barrasso pushes bill to assist with housing on the Wind River Reservation and elsewhere
By Tristan Ahtone
Washington D-C – Originally introduced in the House of Representatives, the HEARTH Act an acronym for Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership has now been introduced to the Senate by Wyoming Senator John Barrasso.
The act essentially allows tribes and individual tribal members to lease their lands for up to 25 years. As it stands now, those same lands can only be leased after the Secretary of the Interior gives a stamp of approval to each individual - a process that could take anywhere between six months to two years to happen.
Patrick Goggle is Executive Director of Northern Arapaho Tribal Housing. He says that process has created limited opportunities for lending and financing due to long wait periods.
"The HEARTH act would allow the tribes to dispense with the approval through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and actually set up a system themselves which would allow them a more expedited method of approving leases to tribal members."
Senator Barrasso is the vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Last year, the Senator threatened to derail legislation to authorize the class action Cobell lawsuit - in which individual Native American landowners would receive compensation for the mismanagement of roughly 150-billion dollars in royalties owed to them. Here in Wyoming, it's estimated that between 6 and 8 thousand Indian landowners will be reimbursed for the mismanagement.