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:
Lakota Country Times: Native youth work to bring relatives home (2/12)
Native Sun News: Young runners invited to compete in Australia (2/12)
Mark Trahant: Native voters are true outsiders in 2016 elections (2/12)
Lorraine Loomis: Help treaty tribes with salmon recovery efforts (2/12)
Vincent Schilling: I'm not ashamed to be a sexual assault victim (2/12)
Tara Houska: Stop stealing cultural traditions from Native people (2/12)
Burns Paiute Tribe to help assess damage from armed takeover (2/12)
Obama weighs tribal request for Bears Ears National Monument (2/12)
Study looks at rates of binge drinking among Native Americans (2/12)
President of Navajo Nation to sign bill for veterans department (2/12)
Winnebago Tribe faces opposition to Nebraska gaming initiative (2/12)
Kialegee Tribal Town stays quiet as failed casino sits unfinished (2/12)
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community eyes off-reservation casino (2/12)
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation sees gaming revenue gains (2/12)
Lakota Country Times: Missing Oglala Sioux woman found dead (2/11)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Town repays Oneida Nation with racism (2/11)
Brandon Ecoffey: Treaties guaranteed health care for our people (2/11)
Vincent Armenta: Chumash Tribe battles opponents at every turn (2/11)
Michael Marchand: Arrow Lakes people still fighting for our rights (2/11)
Steven Newcomb: Federal Indian law based on invented realities (2/11)
Native basketball tournament bars player who lacks Indian blood (2/11)
Armed occupation of wildlife refuge in Oregon ends with arrests (2/11)
Native activists ask Obama to help with liquor sales in Whiteclay (2/11)
South Dakota lawmakers kill bill to support return of land to tribes (2/11)
Miami Nation agrees to forfeit $48M from online lending business (2/11)
Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation creates $1.2M endowment at ASU (2/11)
Colville Tribes issue citation for death of rare owl on reservation (2/11)
Fort Independence Indian Community cheated by former partner (2/11)
Paskenta Band donates $125K to buy new vehicle for firefighters (2/11)
Man pleads guilty for dealing meth on Mescalero Apache Nation (2/11)
Public high school gives up racist mascot in response to new law (2/11)
Morongo Band and San Manuel Band question fantasy sports bill (2/11)
Former Sac and Fox Nation casino employee charged with theft (2/11)
Jena Band of Choctaw Indians celebrates 3rd birthday of casino (2/11)
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation again told it can't accept casino bids (2/11)
Editorial: Measure stops Lytton Band from pursuing new casinos (2/11)
Obama seeks another increase for Indian Health Service budget (2/10)
Six of 12 Indian Health Service area directors in 'acting' capacity (2/10)
Lakota Country Times: Indian lawmakers oppose drug testing bill (2/10)
Vince Two Eagles: The rez of the story about treaty-making in US (2/10)
Kristi Noem: Indian Health Service remains in state of emergency (2/10)
Chase Iron Eyes: Real sovereigns don't disenroll their own people (2/10)
Gyasi Ross: African and Native Americans fought for their survival (2/10)
Albert Bender: Tribes should reclaim land from unratified treaties (2/10)
John Lavelle: Supreme Court weighs key tribal sovereignty issue (2/10)
Women take top three leadership positions at Menominee Nation (2/10)
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.