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It's Official — La Paz Lands Returned to CRIT
August 3, 2005

16,000 acres north and south of I-10 were taken in early 20th Century

A struggle that has lasted for almost a century is now over.

The La Paz Lands, a massive tract of land off Interstate 10 south of the current reservation, has been restored to the Tribes thanks to a measure passed by the United States Congress and signed a few days ago by President Bush.

CRIT had been working for 90 years to regain this land, which was unjustly taken by the Federal Government during the administration of President Woodrow Wilson.

The United State Senate passed the legislation in late July, following the U.S. House of Representatives, which passed the bill in April.

The newly restored 16,000 acres are part of CRIT’s ancestral homeland and were first recognized as part of the Colorado River Indian Reservation by President Abraham Lincoln and later expanded by President U.S. Grant. In 1915, the parcel was taken from the Tribe by President Wilson through an executive order.

It was then that a large mining company approached the Tribes to secure a lease for a silver mining operation on what are known as the “La Paz Lands.” When CRIT refused, the company lobbied Wilson to cut the La Paz Lands from the reservation. Wilson gave in to the mining interests and issued an executive order that took the lands from CRIT without compensation.

But 90 years later, thanks to the United States Congress and the Bush Administration, the “Colorado River Indian Reservation Boundary Correction Act” has become a reality. Sponsored by Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) and actively supported by Congressmen Flake, Renzi, Hayworth and Pastor, as well as U.S. Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl, the Act corrects this historic injustice.

“It is a great day for all our people. We’ve been working for decades to have these lands returned because we believe it is the fair and right thing for the Federal Government to do,” said Tribal Chairman Daniel Eddy, Jr.

“We simply wanted to see a past wrong corrected and have these lands returned to our Tribe. We want to thank so many of our elected officials in Arizona as well as the United States Congress and the Administration for turning this dream into a reality,” Eddy, Jr. said.

According to the legislation, two parcels totaling 840 acres of Arizona State Trust land that were created within the La Paz Lands along Interstate 10 are not included in the transfer of lands back to CRIT. The state would continue to have ingress and egress along the interstate.

The legislation also requires the maintenance of all remaining mining claims and utility easements on the site. Gaming is prohibited.

The 16,000 acres will now join CRIT’s other 270,000 acres of reservation and will now comprise a new southern boundary.

CRIT members have conducted lengthy letter-writing campaigns over the years to the Department of the Interior in an effort to get the lands back.

However, the Department came to the decision that they did not have the power to overturn an executive order, and that Congress or the president would have to do it.

The late U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater had introduced legislation in 1980 and 1981 to give the land back, but the legislation did not pass.

When the Senate Indian Affairs Committee considered the bill in 1981, Senator Goldwater testified, “I feel very close to this because my Grandfather settled in La Paz in 1860. At that time, there was no question that it was Indian land...So I feel very strongly about the Indians and their regard for this land.

“Just wanting land for whatever commercial value may be involved is alright. But this is ancestral land that Indians have long had a proper claim to."

The Grijalva legislation was introduced in 2003, and marked the first attempt at a legislative remedy in more than two decades.

The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives last year but the U.S. Senate adjourned before voting.

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