indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

Print   Subscribe
Judge rebuffs state's attempt to impose taxes on tribe
Thursday, June 2, 2005

A state of Michigan cannot impose property taxes on the land owned by members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

In an 18-page opinion, U.S. District Judge David W. McKeague said the state has no right to tax tribal lands because Congress has not authorized it. "Indian reservation land is generally exempt from state and local taxation absent cession of jurisdiction or other federal statute permitting it," he wrote in the decision, dated May 27, that was filed yesterday.

The ruling comes in a a long-running dispute between the tribe and the state. Citing U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the state tax commission authorized local assessors to place tribal property on the tax rolls.

Calling state taxation "an insult to tribal sovereignty" the KBIC council fought the decision and won a ruling in the state Court of Appeals in 2002. But the state Supreme Court reversed a year later, leading to tax bills sent to the tribe and tribal members for land within the 59,840-acre reservation.

The dispute centered on the interpretation of Cass County v. Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, a Supreme Court ruling from 1998. In the unanimous decision, the justices said that an act of Congress opening up the reservation to allotment was an "unmistakably clear" sign that state and local taxation is allowed.

The state sought to extend this logic to an 1854 treaty between the Keweenaw Bay ancestors and the United States. Language in the treaty did in fact refer to allotment of tribal lands.

But McKeague said a "liberal" interpretation of the treaty doesn't support the state's argument. "It defies logic to believe that the Indians would have signed a treaty ceding over seven million acres to the United States, knowing that they could lose the land they kept as a reservation the following year, due to non-payment of taxes," he wrote.

He also said that the Cass County decision is limited to acts of Congress -- not treaties. Agreeing with the state's expansive interpretation would be judicial activism, McKeague warned.

"Anticipating the direction in which the Supreme Court will direct the law may indeed be an exciting proposition, but it is not the proper role for this court," he stated in granting summary judgment to the tribe.

Taxation has been a major issue for Keweenaw Bay members in recent years. In 2002, the tribe refused to sign an agreement with the state covering tax issues. Former chairman Fred Dakota, who currently serves on the council, has been leading protests against potential settlement with the state.

The tribe and business owners on the reservation have long resisted efforts by the state to tax tobacco products. The state has occasionally seized cigarettes that do not bear state tax stamps.

In addition to property and sales taxes, there is a dispute over car use taxes imposed on the reservation. The Michigan Tax Tribunal in April ordered the state to pay more than $990 back to a tribal member for an illegal tax.

Get the Decision:
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community v. Michigan (June 1, 2005)

Supreme Court Decision:
Cass County v. Leech Lake (June 8, 1998)

Relevant Links:
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community - http://www.ojibwa.com

Related Stories:
Michigan tribe rejects talk of tax deal with state (03/18)
Members of Michigan tribe protest state tax deal (3/16)
Mich. tribe still considering state tax agreement (07/15)
State wants Mich. tribal members to pay taxes (06/10)

Copyright © 2000-2006 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Trump singles out Bears Ears as an 'abuse' of government's power (4/26)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Let's call Columbus by what he truly was (4/26)
Native Sun News Today: Lakota youth set up beekeeping business (4/26)
Cronkite News: Trump seeks to hire thousands of border officers (4/26)
Doug Pibel: New film teaches us about value of indigenous seeds (4/26)
Jenn Weddle: 'Best possible result' from court in sovereignty case (4/26)
Peter d'Errico: Oneida architect offers indigenous approach to law (4/26)
Whiteclay liquor stores aim to stay open pending fight for licenses (4/26)
Support for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe leads to recall in Alaska city (4/26)
Mishewal Wappo Tribe loses appeal in federal recognition lawsuit (4/26)
Police use tear gas & rubber bullets at indigenous protest in Brazil (4/26)
Mohegan Tribe wants gaming disputes resolved in judicial system (4/26)
Supreme Court hands defeat to tribal interests in sovereignty case (4/25)
Matthew Fletcher: 'Gamesmanship' brings defeat in Supreme Court (4/25)
Supreme Court relists petition in Gun Lake Tribe gaming land case (4/25)
Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute team wins NASA prize (4/25)
Former top Bureau of Indian Affairs official joins Washington firm (4/25)
Native Sun News Today: Groups fight uranium mining in Black Hills (4/25)
Cronkite News: Budget deadline falls on Donald Trump's 100th day (4/25)
Mary Annette Pember: Indian Child Welfare Act heals our families (4/25)
André Cramblit: Tribes must make language survival a top priority (4/25)
Cowlitz Tribe welcomes big crowd to $510M casino in Washington (4/25)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe sees more opposition to gaming win (4/25)
Pojoaque Pueblo loses big decision in gaming dispute with state (4/24)
Supreme Court takes no action on long-running tribal land case (4/24)
Yakama Nation landowners see $68M in Cobell buy-back offers (4/24)
Tim Giago: Sovereignty at risk with Donald Trump in White House (4/24)
Mark Trahant: Donald Trump & Republicans can't seem to govern (4/24)
Native Sun News Today: Chickasaw citizen donates prom dresses (4/24)
Steve Russell: The BEST advertisement for education in America (4/24)
Arlana Bennett: Picking cans with my father became our tradition (4/24)
Terese Mailhot: Maybe some people should be able to play Indian (4/24)
Charles Kader: Tribal communities still face threats to their lands (4/24)
3rd suspect sought in connection with death of elderly Native man (4/24)
Mashantucket Tribe expresses interest in growing industrial hemp (4/24)
Shutdown of federal government looms ahead of April 28 deadline (4/24)
Confederate monuments start coming down as Jackson stays put (4/24)
Blackfeet Nation citizens approve historic water rights settlement (4/21)
Native Sun News Today: Cheyenne River Sioux woman still walking (4/21)
James Giago Davies: Our future is not bleak but bright with promise (4/21)
Rosalyn LaPier: Tradition blends with science in tribal communities (4/21)
Simon Moya-Smith: Media continues to peddle in Indian stereotypes (4/21)
Steven Newcomb: Bill in California dehumanizes indigenous peoples (4/21)
American Indian Library Association battles Trump's big budget cut (4/21)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.