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Claim hurts farm sales
Catawba claim threat slows farmland sales, lender says
-Evening Herald, Thurs. August 3, 1978
ROCK HILL - Farm land sales in makes farm loans, part-time farm
tawba Indian claim has kicked up
Grove, Sharon areas," he said.
See CLAIM, page 12
In response to your inquiry, this is to advise that the Catawba
STATEMENT OF BETTY JO RHEA, ROCK HILL CITY COUNCIL
Ms. RHEA. Mr. Chairman, I am mayor pro tem of the city of Rock Hill. It is the sixth largest city in the State of South Carolina. I am appearing today on behalf of the city council in support of Senate bill 2084.
In December 1981, our council unanimously adopted a resolution in support of this legislation and it is attached to my testimony today.
Senator COHEN. Your statement and its attachments will be made a part of the record.
Ms. RHEA. As a native Rock Hillian, I am familiar with the Catawbas, I have known them all my life, and I realize their dreams and aspirations for a reservation that contains housing and recreation and possibly things that would attract tourists, things of this type that would attract an extra source of income. But regardless of how praiseworthy, these should not be accomplished at the expense of present-day landowners who are completely blameless of the acts or any failure to act on the part of the Federal or State officials.
This lawsuit against the landowners has, as you said, being an elected official, we hear about this everyday, and these people are really concerned. They just really do not understand. You talk about the money, why do we not take it on to court, like this decision we had last week? Well, it is a costly piece of litigation. Rock Hill has already spent, ourselves, the city has spent over $20,000, and you know, that is just one court case, and it could go on for years. It is frightening to us.
Senator COHEN. Has the Justice Department participated in this litigation or Interior?
Mr. TODD. No, sir, they have not participated at all.
Ms. RHEA. In the last several years, our city, our area, has lost over 5,000 jobs because of textile plants closing down, and this does not help us to go out and help to find other people.
Senator Cohen. Let me interrupt you one more time and then you can complete your statement.
When one of the council or witnesses for the Oneida Tribe indicated that she had hoped that the town officials would join or bring suit against Federal officials for reimbursement for whatever expenses or costs were involved, it occurred to me, frankly, when I was faced with this kind of a suit, I had my very serious doubts about the role of the Justice Department and Interior.
It seems to me that what you might very well do is bring in your attorneys can tell you about this—but I would suggest that you might want to join the Federal Government, because I believe that it is the Federal responsibility in this case, and I do not think that any town that is currently involved should have to bear the entire expense because we have a role to play in this entire thing. No town should be left to defend or fend for itself on something as complex and as costly as this kind of litigation.
It seems to me, one way to bring the Interior or Justice Department in would be as a defendant. You might get more legal help in that fashion, is all I am suggesting.
Ms. RHEA. Well, the different governments and the county government, we have all tried to go together and tried to bear the expenses of legal counsel and things of this type. But the fact that we have lost jobs in our area and everything, it makes it awfully hard for us to come up with the money to pay these bills. And we cannot go out and really solicit people coming in to start other businesses, to create jobs. So this has been a real problem.
As a governing body, the city council has attempted to qualify for all Federal programs that provide low-cost housing for our citizens. With the necessity of title insurance guaranteeing a clear and marketable title, we ran into quite a problem
with this and had to do a little scrambling around and eventually work things out into an area that was not on the land claim. But it created a lot of problems. So we felt like that was depriving one group by actions of another group.
As I say, in Rock Hill we have limited economic resources to meet the expenses of defending a lawsuit. We believe if there is any blame to be affixed, that it should surely fall on the Federal level, and not the local level. Rock Hill did not even exist at the time of the 1840 land transfer.
Senator COHEN. The State of Maine was not even a State in 1790. We were part of Massachusetts at that time.
Ms. Rhea. We just ask your help and appreciate your time in being so kind with us.
Thank you so much.
Senator COHEN. Thank you for your patience in waiting until this point in the day to testify. [The prepared statement follows:] PREPARED STATEMENT OF BETTY JO RHEA ON BEHALF OF THE CITY OF
ROCK HILL, S.C. My name is Betty Jo Rhea. I live at 672 Sedgewood Drive, Rock Hill, South Carolina.
I am Mayor Pro Tem of the City Council of Rock Hill, the governing body of our City. Rock Hill is the sixth largest City in South Carolina and includes approximately 36,000 people within its City limits and about 51,000 in its urbanized area.
I am appearing today in behalf of the City Council in support of S. 2084, the Ancient Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1982, or comparable legislation that would end, once and for all times, the dispute between the Catawba Indians and the landowners in our area.
On December 21, 1981, our Council unanimously adopted a Resolution in support of this legislation and urged its adoption. A copy of our Resolution is attached to my testimony.
If I may, Mr. Chairman, I would like to begin my presentation on a personal note. I am a native Rock Hillian, as was my family before me. I grew up and lived with a complete awareness of the presence of the Indians. My father was a general practitioner and had many patients among the Indians. Throughout my school years, my friends and I visited the Reservation and watched the Indian women make their unique pottery. As an adult, I have served on committees with many Catawbas, and number them among my friends and acquaintances.
These early associations and others of a more recent date have led to my understanding of the dreams and aspirations of some of the Indians for an enlarged reservation that would contain housing. As a member of the National Recreation and Park Board of Trustees. I can appreciate their wish for a high quality of life and a reservation that would include recreational facilities to attract tourists and provide an extra source of income.
But, Mr. Chairman, regardless of how praiseworthy these aspirations may be, they should not be accomplished at the expense of present-day landowners who are completely blameless for the acts, or any alleged failure to act, on the part of Federal or State officials in 1840 when the Indians first sold their land to South Carolina, nor should these desires be laid on already overburdened taxpayers.
Yet this is the way in which the lawsuit against the landowners filed by the Indians is regarded by most of our citizens, particularly those who are named as defendants. They see this lawsuit as an attempt to throw them, the present landowners, off their lands because of acts in which they took no part. Each member of the City Council has heard from constituents who are concerned that their homes, which often represent a lifetime of saving and sacrifice, will be taken from them. They fear their ability to dispose of their property in their best interest will be severely impaired.
They do not see an end to this threat, even though a week ago, on June 14, 1982, Judge Willson dismissed the Indian lawsuit. While I am not a lawyer, as I understand Judge Willson's decision, he held that the Indians lost their right to recovery of the 144,000 acres because of a 1959 Act of Congress dissolving the Tribe and placing its members on the some footing as other citizens of South Carolina. This 1959 Act was an Act initiated by the Indians themselves and many people in our area believed when it was passed that the Indian land issue had been laid to rest, a conclusion just now reached by Judge Willson in the lawsuit.
This has been a costly piece of litigation for our people and, particularly for the State and local governments. Rock Hill has contributed $18,834 toward the cost of the defense, while the State has paid $57,443 and other local governments combined $38,609. Private interests have spent this much or more, since some of them began legal research in Archives as early as 1977 when this matter first came to the public's attention. These legal expenses will continue as the Indians have already said they will appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court from Judge Willson's decision, and as either they or the landowners go on to the Supreme Court. It will be several more years before this case finally has worked its way through the courts. Meanwhile, not only will the expenses continue, but more importantly, the devisive atmosphere in our area and the adverse economic impact on us will not be abated.
in the last several years, our area has lost 5,000 manufacturing jobs because several textile firms have closed or cut back. The Indian Land Claim stands in the way of favorable economic climate necessary if we are to replace these industries with others. Other witnesses, particularly Mr. Carpenter of the Chamber of Commerce, will describe more fully the overall adverse economic effects on our
However, I would like to mention just one aspect, about which I am personally informed as a member of City Council. As a governing body, Council has attempted to qualify for all Federal programs that provide low-cost housing for our citizens, many of whom are elderly or members of minorities. A part of the requirements for Federal loans or other assistance is the necessity of title insurance, guaranteeing a clear and marketable title. Of course, with the Indian claim at first, and then this lawsuit, the title insurance companies have placed an exception in their policies, an exception that Federal agencies question. While we have ultimately been able to work around these exceptions and proceed with our projects, the Indian claim has slowed us down and, indeed, threatened to jeopardize the basic grants because of our slowness.
I cite this experience because it illustrates how the actions of one group of our citizens threatens to deprive another group of our people of much needed housing.
We Rock Hillians have limited economic resources to meet the expense of defending a lawsuit. And we believe if there is any blame to be affixed, and this is a big IF, it should surely fall on the Federal, and not the local level. Rock Hill did not even exist at the time of the sale of the land by the 1840 Indians to the State of South Carolina.
The reasoning behind the theory of compensatory justice is that those who commit a wrong should repay those whom they have injured. If any harm has been done to the Indians, the costs should not be borne by those who are not responsible for such an act. That is why I support S. 2084 or comparable legislation. It seems the fairest way to solve this problem.
Thank you for your interest in our problem. I appreciate this opportunity to appear before you.
A RESOLUTION TO SUPPORT THE ENACTMENT BY CONGRESS OF LEGISLATION MAKING
ALLOWABLE INDIAN CLAIMS ASSERTABLE ONLY FOR MONETARY COMPENSATION TO BE ADJUDICATED IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF CLAIMS AND PAYABLE BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT
Whereas, the claim asserted by the Catawba Indian Tribe to approximately 144,000 acres of land in York, Lancaster and Chester Counties, South Carolina, has impeded and disrupted economic growth, as have other Indian claims in other areas; and