Mr. President, I rise today with my good friend Senator ENSIGN to introduce the Elko Indian Colony Expansion Act of 2008.
The Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians of Nevada includes four constituent bands, each having a separate reservation or colony in northeastern Nevada. One of the Te-moak Tribe’s bands – the Elko Band – has a strong need for additional land. While their population has steadily grown, their land base has remained the same for over 75 years. This legislation would direct the Secretary of the Interior to make a reasonable expansion of the Te-moak Tribe’s Elko Colony by taking 375 acres of land into trust.
The histories of the City of Elko and the Elko Indian Colony have long been intertwined. Elko was established as a railroad town in 1868 with the construction of the Central Pacific, part of the first transcontinental railroad. Shoshone families that had long lived in the area camped nearby to work on the railroad and in the area’s mines and ranches.
Government officials tried to relocate Elko’s Indian families and all Western Shoshones to the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, 100 miles to the north of Elko, when it was created in 1877. The families refused to leave, however, and managed to stay in the Elko area. When the government’s formal relocation policy failed, separate “colonies” for remaining Shoshone families were established. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson reserved 160 acres for the Shoshone Indians near Elko by executive order. Another 33 acres were later purchased by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and were made part of the colony by Congress in 1931.
Today the Elko Colony is a thriving community. More than half of the Te-Moak’s Tribe’s enrolled members live and work in Elko, yet the Elko Colony has one of the smallest land bases of the four constituent bands. Over 350 tribal members are forced to live off of the colony because of a lack of reservation housing. Our legislation would address this need for more land by directing the Secretary of the Interior to take approximately 375 acres of land into trust for the tribe. These lands are currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and are adjacent to the existing Elko Colony. The land would be available for residential or commercial development, or for traditional uses, like ceremonial gatherings, hunting and plant collecting.
We have received strong letters of support for this proposal from both the City of Elko and Elko County. It is always encouraging when communities come together to work on a project like this, and we are grateful for their collective work on this effort. I also want to highlight that the city has a number of rights-of-way that cross the land in question, and our legislation is designed to protect those interests.
Mr. President, this bill will do so much to improve the lives of the Elko Band of the Te-Moak Tribe. We are pleased to bring this legislation to the committee and we look forward to working with Chairman Bingaman, Ranking Member Domenici and the other distinguished members to move this bill through the process.
I ask that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.
RenoBruce R. Thompson
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