HON. CANDICE S. MILLER
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2003
Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, for more than 100 years, the Bay Mills Indian Community has sought justice for the illegal sale of over 110 acres of Chippewa County lands which, prior to the sale, had been homeland to a large group of the Tribe's ancestors. Today I am introducing legislation that finally brings relief to this group of Michigan's Native people.
The legislation I propose today also brings too-long awaited relief to the non-Indian citizens of Michigan who live within the Tribe's Chippewa county claim area. Because the Indian claim has remained unresolved for many years, innocent homeowners have watched their property values plummet to 90 percent below what that property would otherwise be worth on the open market. This legislation accomplishes these ends by ratifying the Land Settlement Agreement signed by the Bay Mills Indian Community and the State of Michigan on August 23, 2002.
This Land Settlement Agreement is the product of a long and careful negotiation process between the Tribe and the State. It calls for the extinguishment of all of the Tribe's title and right to the Chippewa County disputed lands and in return provides for the Tribe to receive replacement land in Port Huron that will be put into trust (and therefore protected by federal law from illegal sale) by the Secretary of the Interior. Further, the settlement is structured in such a way as to ensure that neither the taxpayers of Michigan nor the taxpayers of the United States will ever be saddled with the cost of paying a monetary damage award, which otherwise could be quite substantial, to the Tribe.
Finally, and of particular importance to my constituents in the 10th District, the settlement agreement will enable the City of Port Huron and the Tribe to engage in desperately needed and mutually beneficial economic development, of a casino. The people of Port Huron approved a June 2001 casino advisory referendum. This legislation is critical in allowing the residents of the Port Huron community to actively participate in its economic recovery through the establishment of a casino approved by the people. The Port Huron community has been brutalized by the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs, a double-digit unemployment rate that doubles our state and federal average and a Canadian casino located just 500 yards from our border. That casino attracts more than 1 million American visitors per year, which is devastating to our tourism and entertainment business. A casino on the American side of the border would create 3,000 American jobs while providing competition to our Canadian neighbors at the only border crossing with Ontario where we have not responded by having a casino of our own.
Resolution of this land claim is long overdue. In sponsoring this legislation, I am proud to be part of a solution crafted to benefit the Tribe, residents of the claim area, and the taxpayers of Michigan.
I join with the members of the Bay Mills Indian Community, the Charlotte Beach landowners, my constituents in Port Huron, and my distinguished colleague Congressman DON YOUNG in support of this proposed settlement. This legislation provides a fair solution that is long overdue for many Native Americans.
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