WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06), U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (WA), U.S. Senator Patty Murray (WA), and U.S. Representative Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) recently introduced the Puyallup Tribe of Indians Land Into Trust Act of 2023.
Land is taken into trust when land is transferred to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to be held in trust for the benefit of the tribe. The legislation would take over 17 acres of land currently owned by the Puyallup Tribe into trust, restoring part of the tribe’s ancestral homeland and allowing the tribe to pursue economic development and job creation opportunities at the Port of Tacoma and on the Tacoma waterfront.
“This legislation will help restore the Puyallup Tribe’s homelands – ensuring the tribe can continue to diversify and grow economic opportunities and create jobs across our region,” said Rep. Kilmer. “I’ll keep working to ensure the federal government fulfills its trust and treaty obligations.”
“The Puyallup Tribe is an economic force and job creator in South Puget Sound,” said Sen. Cantwell. “Taking this land into trust allows the tribe to return to its ancestral homeland and create more jobs in the region. I look forward to working with our delegation to get this bill signed into law.”
“Our federal government has a duty to give our tribal communities a fair shake, and that includes ensuring they can benefit from the same opportunities that have helped other communities across Washington State grow and thrive,” said Sen. Murray. “That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing the Puyallup Tribe of Indians Land Into Trust Act, which would put into trust some of the Puyallup’s ancestral land and deliver new economic opportunities for the tribe, it’s members, and the region. As a voice for Washington State tribes, I’m committed to pushing for more to deliver for all of our Native communities.”
“This legislation will spur economic development and infrastructure investments for the Puyallup Tribe,” said Rep. Strickland. “It helps advance their vision for a vibrant, healthy, and working Puget Sound while honoring treaty rights.”
“The Puyallup Tribe greatly appreciates the delegation’s support of the tribe in our efforts to restore our homeland,” said Bill Sterud, Chairman of the Puyallup Tribal Council. “This legislation will help the tribe diversify its economy and bring critical infrastructure and business to the tribe’s port development and the entire region.”
To transfer tribal lands into trust, tribes may apply to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The BIA will either approve or deny the application, or Congress may pass a bill directing the BIA to take the land into trust. Due to legacy contamination, the BIA is unable to take the land into trust and Congressional action through legislation is “the most viable option” as the BIA affirmed this in a letter to the tribe on Aug. 15, 2022.
Land that is taken into trust by the federal government is governed by the tribe and can benefit from federal programs and services such as New Market Tax Credits, Tax-Exempt Financing, Discounted Leasing Rates, Foreign Trade Zone Customs, and Duty Deferral, among other benefits that protect tribal sovereignty and allow the tribe to create economic opportunities for its members and surrounding communities.
The proposal for the land to be taken into trust is supported by the City of Tacoma, Pierce County, Governor Inslee, and the Port of Tacoma.