President Obama signs HEARTH Act giving Indian tribes more land independence

GILA RIVER, AZ - President Barack Obama signed in a new law today amending a previous act that gives Indian tribes more control of their lands and development today.

The Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act of 2011 amends the Indian Long-Term Leasing Act of 1955.

Gila River Indian Community Governor Gregory Mendoza stood in the White House as President Obama signed in the law.

HEARTH allows tribes to enter certain surface land leases without prior federal government consent and allows them to handle their own long-term land leasing, according to a news release.

The law also allows them to decide on expansion of housing and economic development on tribal lands.

Until now, tribes had to have certain decisions approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. That process sometimes took multiple years to complete.

"This action by the President is a long awaited victory for tribes, tribal housing programs and tribal economic development across Indian country," said Gov. Mendoza in a news release. "I'm very proud of the Community's efforts to help secure passage of this very important piece of legislation, which will have a significant positive impact on our community for generations to come."

He continued on to say, "I would like to thank Congressman Martin Heinrich of New Mexico for introducing and guiding this legislation in the House of Representatives. I also applaud Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for securing the Senate's passage of the HEARTH Act by unanimous consent.  Today's signing of this landmark piece of legislation signifies a victory for tribal nations that will go far to protect sovereignty, build homes, and create jobs across Indian country."

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