indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
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...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Oglala student makes name as young writer (4/23)
Mark Trahant: Budget predictions at the Indian Health Service (4/23)
Zoltán Grossman: Cowboy Indian Alliance rides in Washington (4/23)
Gyasi Ross: Stop Keystone XL Pipeline and protect homelands (4/23)
Videos: Cowboy Indian Alliance protests Keystone XL Pipeline (4/23)
Steve Russell: Indians often seen an obstacle to government (4/23)
Mary Pember: Ojibwe women rise to protect the environment (4/23)
Brent Cahwee: Shoni Schimmel brings her show to the WNBA (4/23)
Malcolm Benally: Some Navajo leaders clueless on mascots (4/23)
Jacoby Ellsbury makes strong debut with New York Yankees (4/23)
Washington team owner says he 'understands' Indian issues (4/23)
Gathering of Nations ready for annual powwow and pageant (4/23)
Paskenta Band suspends family during contentious meeting (4/23)
Navajo family sues restaurant over drunken driving deaths (4/23)
Crushplate: 10 disturbing facts about Indian Country health (4/23)
WXPR: Forest County Potawatomi Tribe taps green energy (4/23)
Opinion: Tribal members challenge California taxation rules (4/23)
Supreme Court allows ban on affirmative action in Michigan (4/23)
Turtle Talk: No word from Supreme Court on Bay Mills case (4/23)
ICT interview with Ernie Stevens of NIGA on racist mascots (4/23)
Jamul Band rejects claim about burial ground at casino site (4/23)
Stockbridge-Munsee Band sends $1M casino application fee (4/23)
Ho-Chunk Nation seeks road grant for off-reservation casino (4/23)
Teacher resigns after arrest for theft at Poarch Creek casino (4/23)
Native Sun News: Sisseton Wahpeton fighter gets big chance (4/22)
Native Sun News: Pine Ridge man behind Revolution Couture (4/22)
CDC reports show high death rates among Native Americans (4/22)
DOI Secretary Sally Jewell delivers keynote at tribal summit (4/22)
DOI Deputy Secretary Mike Connor hosts Earth Day webchat (4/22)
Winona LaDuke: Tribes won't see benefits from Keystone XL (4/22)
Photos: Cowboy Indian Alliance rides to National Mall in DC (4/22)
Alray Nelson: Bring marriage equality to the Navajo Nation (4/22)
Steven Newcomb: UNDRIP falls into domination framework (4/22)
DaShanne Stokes: 'Indian' mascots carry harmful impacts (4/22)
Wendell George: Little Joe connects with his tribal heritage (4/22)
Peter Twitchell: Stop passing the buck on our Yup'ik culture (4/22)
Murray Sinclair: Effects of residential school era will linger (4/22)
Wyoming tribes share per cap from $157M trust settlement (4/22)
Navajo Nation Council reconsiders higher tax on junk foods (4/22)
Choctaw Nation Chief Greg Pyle set to retire after 17 years (4/22)
Opinion: Maps represent destruction of Native people in US (4/22)
Oneida Nation to host PGA championship at resort in 2016 (4/22)
Blog: Climate change impacts Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations (4/22)
Supreme Court holding onto ruling in Bay Mills casino case (4/22)
Paskenta Band says leadership issues won't affect casino (4/22)
Forest County Potawatomi Tribe on track with casino hotel (4/22)
Deadline approaches for commercial casinos in New York (4/22)
Native Sun News: Keystone XL Pipeline foes headed to DC (4/21)
Native Sun News: Shoni Schimmel is a role model for youth (4/21)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | 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.