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U.S. Interior Dept. plans listening sessions to restore Native American land


The Interior Department on Tuesday said it has scheduled listening sessions to gather recommendations from Native American tribes that will guide federal efforts to protect and restore tribal homelands.

The tribal consultation meetings are to take place virtually on four dates in October spanning different time zones. Tribal leaders will be asked for advice on several topics, including the process to take land back into trust, leasing and treaty rights, among other issues.

Federal land trust policies allow tribes to re-acquire historic land and aim to remedy practices going back more than a century that took away Native American tribes’ lands across the present-day United States.

“At Interior, we have an obligation to work with Tribes to protect their lands and ensure that each community has a homeland where its citizens can live together to lead safe and fulfilling lives,” Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland said in a news release.

“These important actions are a step in the right direction to restore homelands that will strengthen Tribal communities.”

Virtual sessions are scheduled for Oct. 18, 21, 25 and 26.

The Interior Department in April issued an order that made regional Bureau of Indian Affairs directors responsible for the application review and approval process, a reversal of a Trump-era order that gave jurisdiction to the Department’s headquarters, which led to delays.

A department official said 560,000 acres of land were placed in trust for tribes during the Obama administration, followed by just 75,000 acres of land being placed in trust during the Trump administration.

Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland, a former representative from New Mexico, earlier this year became the first Native American to lead a cabinet agency. Her appointment received support from Native American tribes and environmental groups to oversee policies guiding use of 500 million acres of federal and tribal land, a fifth of the nation’s surface.

Haaland is also tasked with leading the federal government’s relationship with nearly 600 federally recognized tribal nations.

(Reporting by Tyler Clifford; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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