OKLAHOMA CITY -- A bill ending a blood quantum requirement awaits President Donald Trump's signature after it unanimously passed the U.S. House and Senate.
HR2606, also known as the Stigler Act Amendments of 2018, was authored by Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) and co-sponsored by Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02). The legislation amends a 1947 law and would remove the one-half degree Native American blood quantum restriction for holders of tribal allotment land.
The legislation specifically impacts citizens of five Oklahoma tribes: the Chickasaw, Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Choctaw and the Seminole nations.
Congressman Cole is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. Congressman Mullin is a member of the Cherokee Nation.
"In my family, we live in the same place we’ve lived since before statehood, since my family first arrived in Oklahoma. We still own the allotment land that was given to my family, my wife and I do, but we don’t meet the blood quantum that it takes for us to keep it on the roll, which is fine, but the last person that was able to do that was my great-aunt," Congressman Mullin told News 4. "We have no intentions of ever selling it or ever developing or anything like that but families that would like to keep it on the roll and have the tax exemption status on it, they are able to do that with less blood quantum they’ve been able to do in the past."
The U.S. House voted 399-0 on the bill last week, one week after the Senate did so unanimously.
“I am pleased that both chambers of Congress approved changes to the misguided Stigler Act of 1947, which clearly discriminates against citizens of Oklahoma’s Five Tribes," said Congressman Cole. “Without question and especially in Oklahoma, Native American heritage is something to be celebrated. But that special heritage must also be protected, preserved and passed on. Land ownership is part of that unique inheritance for many tribal citizens and their descendants, and over the years, the Stigler Act has unfortunately diminished that rightful inheritance due to an unfair blood quantum requirement. By amending the Stigler Act, I am proud that the rights and privileges promised to all Native Americans will also be extended to Oklahoma’s Five Tribes. In getting this important legislation to the president’s desk, I am very grateful for the strong support offered by Oklahoma’s entire congressional delegation.”
We're told President Trump could sign the bill within the next week.
Stephen Greetham, senior counsel of the Chickasaw Nation, sent News 4 this statement regarding the amendments:
"With the enactment of this amendment, the Five Tribes’ citizens will now enjoy parity of treatment with the citizens of other Tribes. It has been a long time getting this fix to the 1947 Stigler Act, and we appreciate deeply the work of the many legislators and others who have helped get the amendment through Congress.
Chickasaws have long expressed concerns over the Stigler act’s operating to, automatically, take their families’ allotment lands out of protected status without their having any say in the matter. The original Stigler Act, enacted in 1947, stripped Federal law protections from the allotted lands of Five Tribes’ citizens if the federal government considered them to have insufficient “blood quantum.” This rule has caused a significant loss of Tribal lands and family heritage throughout the treaty territories of the Five Tribes.
The Stigler amendment Congress just passed relieves this situation by restoring to citizens of the Five Tribes who still hold protected allotments the same rights held by citizens of other Tribes who hold similar lands. While the amendment will affect less than 1% of lands within the boundaries of the Chickasaw Nation’s treaty territory, the significance of Congress’s acting so decisively to end Stigler’s archaic “blood quantum” requirement is huge. There is tremendous appreciation throughout the Five Tribes for the legislative leadership demonstrated in getting this done.
Going forward, Five Tribes’ citizens who still hold their families’ allotments subject to Federal law protections will be able either to retain their lands in that status or, if they choose for themselves, to petition the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the release of allotment status. This empowers the holder of the allotment to decide for his or her self the condition in which he or she wants to hold title, which right citizens of other Tribes have long held but which Stigler denied to citizens of the Five Tribes."