KINGS MOUNTAIN, NC – The Catawba Nation voiced its thanks and appreciation of the U.S. Congress for its passage of the Catawba Indian Nation Lands Act. The bill was part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed the Senate by a vote of 89 to 10 after passing the House of Representatives on Dec. 7 in a vote of 363-70. The House had first voiced its overwhelming bipartisan support of the Catawba Indian Nation Lands Act (H.R. 8255) in a 361-55 vote on Nov. 1.
President Biden is expected to sign the NDAA, and thus the Catawba Indian Nation Lands Act, into law in the coming days.
“On behalf of all Catawba citizens, I want to thank the original prime sponsors of this legislation, Rep. James Clyburn and Sen. Lindsey Graham, for their leadership throughout this process,” said Catawba Nation Chief Bill Harris. “Additionally, I’d like to thank U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Thom Tillis for their strong support of righting this historical wrong.”
Harris also thanked the measure’s bipartisan House sponsors in addition to Rep. Clyburn, Rep. Alma Adams, Rep. William Timmons, Rep. David Price, Rep. Joe Wilson and Rep. G.K. Butterfield.
“The Catawba Indian Nation Lands Act reaffirms the U.S. Department of Interior’s action recognizing our historical and ancestral ties to North Carolina,” said Harris. “Congress, Interior, the State of North Carolina and a federal court have now all confirmed what the Catawba people have said from the beginning – these lands are the ancestral homelands of the Catawba people, and we intend to use them to improve the life of all the people in the community.”
The Department of Interior had completed a thorough, years-long review prior to its March 2020 action taking 17 acres of land into trust status in Cleveland County for the Catawba Nation. It confirmed that the Catawba Nation’s aboriginal lands extend to six North Carolina counties and farther north in the Piedmont of North Carolina, as evidenced by names such as Catawba County and Catawba College. The six counties in North Carolina are part of the Catawba’s service area as defined by the U.S. Congress in 1993.
“These are the lands of not just our ancestors, but also the hundreds of Catawba citizens residing there today,” said Harris. “Make no mistake, this legislation means more people will have good paying jobs, more kids will have a better education and more people will have better housing and health care. That’s what this bill really means.”
Like many other instances reflecting current effects of historical inequities, the Catawba Nation experiences high unemployment and poverty rates, and many of its citizens rely upon the federal and state governments for basic social services. The enactment of this legislation will therefore help the Catawba secure economic self-sufficiency as originally envisioned by Congress in passing the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.
The new law also confirms that the Catawba Nation is subject to the well-established rules and regulations of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act on their modern and ancestral lands in the State of North Carolina.