On Monday, the Tohono O’odham Nation filed suit in federal district court against the United States “for its failure to comply with the requirements of the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act (Pub. L. No. 99-503). That federal statute requires the Secretary of the Interior to acquire for the Nation new trust land to compensate the Nation for nearly 10,000 acres of its reservation lands destroyed as a result of the federal government’s construction of the Painted Rock Dam.
“It has been well over a year since the Nation asked the Department of the Interior (DOI) to take its Maricopa County land into trust. Even though the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Western Regional Office and BIA Headquarters stated publicly that the Nation’s land meets the requirements of the Lands Replacement Act, nearly 10 months ago, DOI has failed to take the steps necessary to complete the process by which the Nation’s Maricopa County land will be taken into trust.”
Tohono O’odham’s suit seeks to compel the Interior Department to immediately comply with its statutory and trust obligations and accept trust title to the Nation’s land.
In a press release sent to news organizations Monday, Ned Norris Jr., Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, wrote, “We have tried very hard to work with, not against, the Department, but at some point it became clear that the Department has simply stopped processing the Nation’s application. The decision to sue was a difficult one, but the Department of Interior’s failure to be responsive to our request has left us no other alternative.”