Memorandum Returning Without Approval a Bill Relating to Navajo Tribe Land Claims

October 30, 1984

I am withholding my approval of H.R. 5760, a bill ``To declare that the United States holds certain lands in trust for the Cocopah Indian Tribe of Arizona, and for other purposes.''

Title I of H.R. 5760 would declare that almost 4,000 acres of Federal land in Yuma County, Arizona, be held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the Cocopah Indian Tribe. I do not object to this provision.

Title II of H.R. 5760 would allow the Navajo Tribe to reassert against the United States, vague and uncertain claims originally brought in July 1950, but voluntarily and legally withdrawn by their counsel in October 1969. The propriety and finality of counsel's action were subsequently given exhaustive consideration. Navajo Tribe v. United States, 220 Ct. Cl. 350, 601 F.2d 536 (1979), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 1072 (1980). In the meantime, some claims which might be affected by H.R. 5760 have been settled or litigated, and others have been placed on a detailed trial schedule. Enactment of H.R. 5760 could compel protracted renegotiation, retrial or delay in the trial of these claims, based upon vague and speculative allegations.

Absent a compelling showing that a substantial injustice would result from adherence to procedural norms, the limitations of the Indian Claims Act and the procedures adopted for the adjudication of claims under the Act should not be frustrated by special legislation, such as that contained in title II of H.R. 5760. No such showing has been made here.

Title II would interfere with the fair and orderly adjudication of the claims of the Navajo Tribe and would constitute an affront to established rules, procedures, and principles for the resolution of Indian claims. It could serve to encourage other and future efforts to obtain by legislation that which has been unattainable through adjudication.

For these reasons, I find the bill unacceptable. If Title I were presented as a separate bill, I would have no objection to its enactment.

Ronald Reagan

The White House,

October 30, 1984.