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
Indian Law Online Master Degree
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:
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe honors veterans (9/17)
Mark Trahant: Is independence in the future for tribal nations? (9/17)
Audio: SCIA takes up bill to bar Tohono O'odham Nation casino (9/17)
House approves bill to address tribal general welfare programs (9/17)
House Natural Resources Committee sets markup on tribal bills (9/17)
House subcommittee to hold hearing on bill for Hualapai Tribe (9/17)
9th Circuit takes up Big Lagoon Rancheria gaming land dispute (9/17)
House passes bill to shield Gun Lake Tribe casino from litigation (9/17)
Andre Cramblit: Enjoying life at Dartmouth as a Native student (9/17)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Tribes need to lead climate change reform (9/17)
Sarah Deer wins genius grant for work to protect Native women (9/17)
Tex Hall loses bid for another term as chair of North Dakota tribe (9/17)
Group starts dragging of river in search of missing Native women (9/17)
Appeal filed over Navajo language ability of presidential hopeful (9/17)
Trial delayed for leader of Muscogee Nation accused in theft case (9/17)
Editorial: Pass bill to extend federal recognition to Virginia tribes (9/17)
NLRB reaffirms jurisdiction over Little River Band gaming facility (9/17)
Chumash Tribe to use labor unions for all work on casino project (9/17)
Student arrested over theft at Saginaw Chippewa Tribe's casino (9/17)
Native Sun News: Homeless students find support in Rapid City (9/16)
Checks from final payment of Cobell settlement put in the mail (9/16)
DOI offers $9.4M for Cobell buy-backs on Umatilla Reservation (9/16)
House takes up bill to address tribal general welfare programs (9/16)
Tribal leaders headed to Capitol Hill to push legislative priorities (9/16)
NMAI hosts symposium on treaties to coincide with new exhibit (9/16)
Witnesses: Hearing on bill to bar Tohono O'odham Nation casino (9/16)
Rival tribes spend $13M to block Tohono O'odham Nation casino (9/16)
Mark Charles: Trail of Tears sign points to much deeper problem (9/16)
Donna Ennis: Don't let ethnic imposters take away our identity (9/16)
Serial killer sentenced to life term for murder of Native woman (9/16)
Civil rights complaint filed over repeated denial of honor song (9/16)
Sen. Cantwell to introduce bill to end NFL's tax-exempt status (9/16)
House backs package to transfer federal land to Te-Moak Tribe (9/16)
Fort Belknap Tribe detained state game warden for trespassing (9/16)
Mohegan Tribe to open first Smashburger location in December (9/16)
Police in Ontario investigate letter that threatens Native people (9/16)
Urban Indian population grows in Brazil's poorest neighborhoods (9/16)
Indian family in Washington continues bid for casino on allotment (9/16)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe challenges NLRB jurisdiction over casino (9/16)
Mohegan Tribe loses bid for commercial casino in Massachusetts (9/16)
Connecticut tribes see another decline in slot machine revenues (9/16)
Tim Giago: Standing tall for Native American Day in South Dakota (9/15)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne man beaten by BIA officer (9/15)
Mark Trahant: Ten reasons why every Native person should vote (9/15)
Jay Daniels: Still waiting on that final Cobell settlement payment (9/15)
Vote set on bill to protect Gun Lake Tribe's casino from litigation (9/15)
HUD settles complaint for couple on Turtle Mountain Reservation (9/15)
Bryan Brewer: Approve HR3043 to stop IRS harassment of tribes (9/15)
Maryann McGovran: Vote for North Fork Rancheria's gaming deal (9/15)
Donna Ennis: Tribal banishments are a form of cultural genocide (9/15)
Steven Newcomb: Political meanings restrict indigenous peoples (9/15)
Bruce Anderson: Washington team name preserves stereotypes (9/15)
Column: DC-area Native people oppose NFL team's racist mascot (9/15)
House set to vote on bill to transfer federal land to Te-Moak Tribe (9/15)
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.