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Now, we realize that this land claim has been brought back up in the courts and is causing some problems in our community. It has been alluded to here numerous times this day about the poor landowners and how they are innocent and how it is causing problems in the area, and I do not doubt this at all. The point I want to bring up is that in 1840 when our lands were taken away from us, for 140 years now my people have suffered too. They have lived in conditions that they would not have lived in had they still had their lands. Even if the land would not have been developed as it is today because of people, non-Indians, who have come in, and cities are there, and you have businesses and other things, of course. But even if we had kept half of that land and sold half of it in order to do things, we would have been a lot better off today than we are.
So it is not only the landowners today who are suffering because of what happened years ago, but my people have suffered for many years also.
I would also like to add that we talked with the people in the munity long before we ever brought about a claim. For 4 years we worked real hard to work out a just settlement for this claim. And we told the people that if we did not get a negotiated settlement that the only recourse we had would be to courts, because we had the time factors against us. If we did not go then we would lose that opportunity. So they knew what was coming. All these things that are happening that may be adverse effects in the community, of course, is not all our doing. They had something to do with that as well.
I am a citizen of this United States and I served in the U.S. Navy for 9 years. I was a machinist's mate first class, serial No. 4239792, and I was shot at quite a few times in protecting this country that I love. My people have lived in the area in which they live for many years and I have many friends in that area.
The courts may very well rule against my tribe if we go through our due process. I do not know that they will or that they will not, but I have that right. At least, I should be given that right because this country protects all its citizens, not just the people who are not Indians. We should be given our due process as well.
We would like to emphasize to the committee that this is an unfair act and we would strongly suggest that you not recommend it. We want to go on record as saying that the people of the Catawba Indian Nation have been very instrumental in the settling of that part of the country. We fought against other Indians, never fought against the white man. We fought other Indian people to make it possible for that part of the country to be settled.
And so regardless of whether we are right or we are wrong in the case of what happened in 1840, we want you to know that we have worked honestly and sincerely to settle this thing out of court, and it is not all of our doing because we happen to be in the courts at this particular time.
On August 9, 1980, the Catawba Tribe took its most recent vote on the settlement of the Catawba land claim. The tribe is completely united in its position that any settlement must include provisions for purchase of reservation lands additional to the present 630-acre reservation; provisions for per capita cash payments to tribal members; establishment of a tribal development fund; and participation in Federal Indian programs. The tribal vote on this matter was unanimous.
Our position was then, as it is today, that any settlement must provide the long-term social and economic benefits to the Catawba Tribe and its members.
Just because the people want to enact this bill that we think is very unfair, the Catawba Tribe is not going to go away. We have to have a settlement. So it is our contention that this is wrong and we strongly urge the committee to not act favorably upon this bill and we would like to go on record that this is the way we feel about it and we thank you for your time and giving us the opportunity to express our views. Senator COHEN. Thank you, Mr. Blue. Your full statement will be
Cohen made a part of the record at this point.
[The statement follows:)
PREPARED STATEMENT OF CHIEF GILBERT BLUE OF THE CATAWBA TRIBE OF
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. My name is Gilbert Blue. I am the Chief of the Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina. On behalf of the Tribe, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to present our views on S. 2084, the "Ancient Indian Land Claims Settlement Act."
The Catawba Tribe is opposed to this legislation. S. 2084, would extinguish, without payment of just compensation, valuable property rights of the Catawba Tribe. This bill was drafted without Indian participation, particularly by the tribes whose claims would be extinguished. The bill represents an attempt by a political majority to force an unjust solution upon targeted Indian tribes without regard for their rights or needs. Such extinguishment legislation would not even be considered were the claimants other than American Indians. S. 2084 is a shameful, hensible throwback to the nineteenth century's high-handed method of dealing with Indians and their property.
It is important for the Committee to understand from the outset the disastrous effect this bill would have on the Catawba Tribe. Our Tribe's major asset is our claim to possession of our ancestral treaty reservation and trespass damages. In 1810, our 144,000 acre Reservation was unlawfully taken in a transaction with the State of South Carolina. The terms of that agreement, calling for the purchase of a new Reservation for the Tribe, were never fulfilled by the State. After acquiring our treaty Reservation, the State took no action for over two years and then, instead of purchasing a new Reservation, spent only $2,000 of the $5,000 it had promised to spend on the new Reservation to buy back 630 acres of our old Reservation. In other words, the state spent 40 percent of the money it had promised to spend on the new Reservation to buy back less than one-half of one percent of the old Reservation. This 630-acre tract, consisting of very poor land, has been our Reservation and homeland for the last 140 years.
Because the 1840 agreement was in violation of federal law, the State did not receive title to the land, and it remains to this day an Indian Reservation. Its value in 1977 was estimated to be $1.2 billion, not including claims for past trespass damages. The 1982 value of the claim has been estimated to be over $2 billion. S. 2084, in the 1980's, would take away tribal claims worth over $2 billion and substitute in their place comparatively worthless claims against the United States for compensation in 1840 dollars.
If we assume that the Reservation lands were worth an average of $2.00 per acre in 1840, which is probably high, the Tribe should have received $288 000. What the Tribe actually received for the sale of its lands was the $2000 spent on acquiring the 630-acre tract plus periodic subsistence payments from the State totaling over $200,000 over a period of more than 100 years. Thus, the balance owing, under the formula provided for in S. 2084, would be a maximum of $80,000.
This legislation would devastate our interest in our Reservation lands, leaving us with a claim for compensation amounting to, at best, one-fourth of one percent of the value of the lands. It is entirely possible that S. 2084 would leave us with a claim for nothing, if the value of the land in 1840 totals less than the state subsistence payments to the Tribe over the years.
In opposing this legislation, the Tribe is not unmindful of the interests of the landowners who are affected by our claim. In fact, before filing our lawsuit, the Tribe attempted for four years to negotiate an out of court settlement to serve both the interests of the Tribe and the non-Indians in the claim area. We tried to reach an agreement with the State and the landowners because we knew that, if we filed our claim in federal court, there could be an adverse economic impact in the claim area. These efforts to reach agreement failed, however, because the State Commission, which was appointed to make recommendations to the State Legislature, refused to endorse a detailed settlement agreement between representatives of the Tribe, the Governor, the Attorney General, Congressman Holland, and various units of local government.
The long and continuous efforts of our Tribe to reach a just, out-of-court settlement of this longstanding claim illustrates the unreasonable approach of the legislation under consideration. Beginning in the last century, Catawba tribal officials undertook an effort to resolve this claim. This effort has continued until the present. Successive petitions and requests by the Tribe have historically been met with official knowledgment that the State owed a debt to the Catawbas. Invariably, each acknowledgment was followed by the appointment of a State Commission to investigate and make recommendations. The Commission reports usually recommended purchasing additional lands for the Tribe. No action was ever taken on these recommendations. Following these recommendations, the matter would then lie dormant for several years until the Tribe would summon the energy to pursue it yet another time. This public lamentation and inaction occured at least five times in 1907, 1910, 1921, 1924 and 1980. There are numerous other instances since the 1880's of the Tribe bringing the claim to the attention of both state and federal officials with the assistance of a long line of attorneys who have represented the Tribe in this case.
The documentation of these efforts is contained in my statement before this Committee on June 12, 1979, and in the Tribe's 1981 Memorandum in Opposition to the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, filed in the United States District Court for South Carolina.
The June 12, 1979 hearings of this Committee also contain in detail the record to that date of the Catawba Tribe's present effort to resolve the claim. This record reveals that as early as June 10, 1976, while tribal attorneys were still developing and researching the case, the Tribe notified the South Carolina Congressional dele gation that it intended to pursue a resolution of the claim. On August 9, 1976, the Tribe notified South Carolina Governor Edwards of the claim. On April 2, 1977, the Tribe resolved to seek a legislative solution to the claim. During 1977, the Tribe retained Wilbur Smith and Associates of Columbia, South Carolina, to compile a detailed land-use plan for a proposed 30,000-acre reservation along the Catawba River and, following its completion, the Tribe engaged in extensive negotiations with the South Carolina Attorney General. While unable to reach total agreement, the Tribe and Attorney General McLeod agreed on a number of substantive points and principles for a legislative resolution. Also, during 1977, the Trile discussed possiule legislative soiutions in detail both with Congressman Holland and the Administration.
During 1978 and 1979, the Tribe revised its settlement proposal to include a provision for individual cash payments to tribal members, in addition to the acquisi. tion of additional lands, federal recognition and a tribal trust fund.
In 1980, faced with inaction on the part of State and federal officials and the impending expiration of the statute of limitations contained in 28 U.S.C. 2415, the Tribe once again was forced to consider filing its lawsuit and so notified Congressman Holland and Governor Riley. The Congressman and the Governor requested that we refrain from filing the suit and participate in yet another round of negotiations with State and local officials. We agreed. The Governor selected a work group to negotiate with the Tribe, comprised of representatives of the Governor, Congressman Holland, the State's Attorney General, the State Legislature, units of local government and local landowners. This group met throughout the spring and summer and, in August of 1980, reached agreement on proposed settlement legislation.
The Work Group's proposed settlement bill, which was endorsed by all members except the Tri-County Landowner's Association, was modeled after the Maine land claims settlement bill enacted in 1980. It provided for extinguishment of the Catawba land claim, establishment of a federal reservation not to exceed 4,800 acres, federal recognition and BIA services for tribal members, a tribal develop ment fund, and per capita payment to tribal members. The State would have contributed $1,350,000 from its General Fund, provided additional governmental services and allowed participation by the Catawba Tribe in eligibility for revenue sharing and other discretionary funds on an equal basis with political subdivisions of the State. The details of tribal jurisdiction and taxation were agreed upon, with the Tribe having a status similar to that of units of local government. The Tribe would have retained governmental control over internal affairs, with civil and criminal jurisdiction remaining in the State.
The details of the establishment of the Reservation were also agreed upon, with restrictions so severe that it was, in fact, unlikely that the 4,800-acre limit would ever be approached. The land was to have been acquired by voluntary purchase within five years after enactment of the legislation. The acquired lands were to have been within a designated selection area continguous to the existing 630-acre state Reservation. No Reservation lands could completely surround any non-Reservation lands. At the end of the five year period, no further lands could be purchased.
The Work Group prepared detailed settlement legislation, both state and federal. Its work was completed in July, 1980. On August 9, 1980, the general membership of the Catawba Tribe approved the Work Group's settlement package. However, because the Work Group had declined to recommend a dollar figure for the federal share of the settlement, and because the 'Tribe felt strongly that the proposed settlement could not be implemented unless the Congress appropriated at least $30 million, the Tribe recommended that the $30 million figure be included.
The Work Group proposal was submitted to the State Commission and, on August 13, 1980, the Commission held public hearings in Rock Hill. After several meetings, the Commission met in October with representatives of the Tribe to inform us that they had rejected the Work Group's settlement proposal.
The Commission would not agree to the establishment of a federal Indian reservation or the purchase of any additional lands.
At that point, it became clear to the Catawba Tribe that the State Commission was not interested in a settlement which would further the survival and socioeconomic self-sufficiency of the Tribe. Since 1977, our settlement proposals had become increasingly moderate as negotiations progressed and public fears and sentiments became known. For example, in the fall of 1977, the Tribe was seeking an $80 million settlement and establishment of a 30,000-acre reservation. At the June 12, 1979, hearings before this Committee, I proposed establishment of a 10,000-acre reservation. In the Work Group negotiations, we had agreed to a maximum of 4,800 acres to be acquired under limitations so strict that acquisition of even that small amount of and was unlikely.
Our position was then, as it is today, that any settlement must provide for the long-term social and economic benefit of the Tribe and its members. Thus, under these circumstances, and particularly in light of the bad faith dealings of the State Commission, our only hope for a just resolution was in the federal courts. We had witnessed again, as we had so many times in the past, the refusal of State officials to come to grips with the central issues.
The Catawba Tribe will not vanish, despite the desires of those landowners who would legitimize the theft of our Reservation by pretending that the Catawba Tribe does not exist. Just as the effort to steal our lands and remove us from the State failed in 1840, this legislation's attempt to accomplish a similar result will also fail. History cannot be rewritten. For the sake of our children and their children, we simply cannot allow the debt to remain unpaid. The record of our efforts to resolve this claim is clear. For four years before resorting to the Court, we negotiated in good faith for a settlement that would modestly provide for our survival. As has been the case for over 100 years, our efforts were met with apathy on the part of the public and intransigence and bad faith on the part of the State Commission and representatives of a handful of local landowners.
This legislation, if enacted, would reward generations of official buck-passing and inaction, as well as reward the inflexibility of a small group of reactionary anti-Indian landowners. It attempts to resolve this historic dispute once and for all in favor of those who seek eradication of Indian Tribes and their reservations by placing the federal government's stamp of approval on a fraudulent and illegal transaction.
We do not believe that enactment of this bill would in any way aid in a resolution of our land claim. To the contrary, it would simply add many years to the litigation process. Our Reservation was set aside by solemn Treaty with the King of England in 1763. Our recognized property rights, like all others acquired from the British Crown, survived the Revolution and are binding upon the United States. This constitutional system of government simply does permit the Congress to extinguish vested Indian property rights without payment of just compensation. We trust that Congress would not use its power to attempt to deny us our Due Process right to an independent judicial determination of our constitutional claims.
This only serves to emphasize the wisdom of the negotiated settlement approach utilized by the Congress in settling Indian title in Alaska, Rhode Island and Maine. Our approach to settlement has continuously been positive and flexible, and it remains so today. But there are limits—we cannot agree to a settlement that does not benefit the Tribe, nor will we agree to simply disappear into the history books. Congress did not attempt to force such a result on the Native Peoples of Alaska, Rhode Island and Maine, and it should not do so in South Carolina, New York or anywhere in the nation.
I must add one footnote to my testimony. Nine days ago, June 14, 1982, the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina ordered our lawsuit dismissed. We are appealing that decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Senator Cohen. Tell me, Mr. Blue, when was the first time that the Catawba Tribe determined that it had a cause of action under the Nonintercourse Act?
Mr. Blue. I will refer that to Mr. Miller. Mr. MILLER. In this particular round, we began reviewing it in 1975 and concluded in 1976 that there was a cause of action. However, in 1904, after numerous attempts and a string of tribal attorneys, a Washington, D.C. lawyer representing the Catawba submitted a litigation request which was actually very well documented, to the Interior Department, on two different occasions, 1904 and 1905, again in 1909, saying, please bring suit to recover these lands for us. They were taken in violation of the Nonintercourse Act. The Interior Department said, no dice, you are State Indians. But it has been going and they have been trying to develop it for well over 100 years.
Senator Cohen. Is that part of the problem that we have, where the Interior Department, with all the eastern tribes, has said, you are not Federal Indians, you are State Indians. As a State, you have the responsibility for dealing with it, and you do not come under the Nonintercourse Act?
Mr. MILLER. Letters that went out to that effect in Maine, I think, were drafted from those letters to the Catawbas in 1909. They were exactly the same.
Senator COHEN. And apparently that is different from the situation in New York. I do not know what the correspondence was with respect to the Department of the Interior on the Oneida claim.
Mr. MILLER. It is very much different.
Mr. Blue. And, Mr. Chairman, one thing that is very pertinent as far as we are concerned is, that the Catawbas were working on a settlement. We had a State study commission that went through a procedure. And then we actually were in the process of formulating this thing to where it would be agreed upon. There was only one obstacle and that was the reservation land that we wanted to be part of our settlement. There was one small group of landowners who opposed that and shot the whole thing down the drain.
Now, this land that we were going to acquire, we had agreed in our agreement that we would not take any land other than from those who would be willing to sell land to the Catawbas for the tribe. And still with that, even with those things that we gave in on, it was still thrown out, because of one vote. So, negotiations could be worked out. You know, we cannot give everything. We have to have a little.
Senator COHEN. Ms. Toal.