How can the HEARTH Act assist Tribal governments?

An overview of the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act.

In 2012, the United States Congress passed and the President signed the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act (HEARTH). This Act’s basic premise is to:

  • Strengthen economic growth
  • Support tribal self-determination
  • Promote community development

According to Bill H.R.205.IH the tribes are able “to enter into certain leases without prior approval from the Secretary of the Interior” Bill Text - 112th Congress (2011-2012) - THOMAS (Library of Congress). This includes restricted Indian lands for public, religious, educational, recreational, residential, business and other purposes requiring the grant of long-term leases' (Bill Text - 112th Congress (2011-2012) - THOMAS (Library of Congress)). However, tribal governments must pass their own regulations regarding the leasing of tribal lands. More specifically, it allows surface leasing of lands without Bureau of Indian Affairs approval. This allows tribes to process leasing requests quicker and thus generates the ability to increase and diversify economic development ventures in a more streamlined fashion. However, it takes time for governments to implement this process due to the varying types of government structures, resources and funding of tribal governments.

The most recent example of tribal governments approved to process Economic Development Leases without BIA approval under the HEARTH Act is the Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians and Kaw Nation of Oklahoma (The official site of Kaw Nation » Assistant Secretary Washburn Approves Tribal HEARTH Act Applications). The Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians are planning to use their land for business site leases for general economic development while the Kaw Nations of Oklahoma plan to use their sites for business sites and to develop renewable energy projects. The Department of Interior has approved eight tribal leasing codes under the HEARTH Act.

Another example, in November 2013, Secretary Jewell and Assistant Secretary Washburn traveled to Oklahoma to sign an agreement with Citizen Potawatomi Nation to help spur investment and commercial development. The Citizen Potawatomi has full authority to control land use and economic development on tribal lands. Please stay tuned for more updates regarding tribal nations and the utilization of the HEARTH Act.

To learn more about Government and Public Policy and the Leadership and Community Engagement programs offered through Michigan State University Extension, please contact Emily Proctor, Tribal Extension Educator with questions or comments at (231)-439-8927 or 

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