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Public Papers - 1989

Statement on Signing the Puyallup Tribe of Indians Settlement Act of 1989

1989-06-21

Today I am signing into law H.R. 932, the ``Puyallup Tribe of Indians Settlement Act of 1989.'' This bill resolves long-standing land, fishing, and jurisdictional disputes between the Tribe and the local non-Indian community in the area of Tacoma, Washington. Disagreements over land ownership have resulted in uncertainty for many local landowners and economic development of the region has been hindered.

Negotiations to resolve these disputes were initiated over 4 years ago between the Tribe and local non-Indian parties to the settlement. Resolving the disputes through negotiation rather than litigation was accomplished due to the diligent, good-faith efforts of all parties involved.

While H.R. 932 was pending in the Congress, the Administration expressed concern about the extent of the Federal contribution to the settlement, in light of the marginal risk of Federal liability related to the Puyallup claims. The Federal Government will, nevertheless, commit substantial resources to settle these claims pursuant to H.R. 932. Although the Administration favors negotiated settlements over litigation, careful attention must be paid when Federal taxpayers are asked to contribute substantially more than they might otherwise pay as a result of litigation involving the Federal Government's alleged breach of specific trust responsibilities.

The Administration expects to continue to work toward settlements of legitimate Indian land and water rights claims to which the Federal Government is a party. These efforts will recognize the importance of settling legitimate claims brought by tribes against States, private entities, and the Federal Government. We will also strive to ensure that all responsible parties make appropriate contributions to a settlement. In this regard, H.R. 932 provides for State, local, and private, as well as Federal, contributions to the Puyallup Tribe settlement.

Indian land and water rights settlements involve a complicated blend of law, treaties, court decisions, history, social policies, technology, and practicality. These interrelated factors make it difficult to formulate hard-and-fast rules to determine exact settlement contributions by the various parties involved in a specific claim.

In recognition of these difficulties, this Administration is committed to establishing criteria and procedures to guide future Indian land and water claim settlement negotiations, including provision for Administration participation in such negotiations.

George Bush

The White House,

June 21, 1989.

Note: H.R. 932, approved June 21, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 41.

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