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:
Bureau of Indian Affairs opens door to big shift in tribal economies (12/8)
Tribes promise fight against Dakota Access ahead of court hearing (12/8)
Tribes bringing #NoDAPL battle to international human rights forum (12/8)
Dakota Access Pipeline disputes small fine for disturbing tribal site (12/8)
Harold Frazier: 'Wopila tanka' to all the #NoDAPL water protectors (12/8)
Native Sun News Today: Temporary win on Dakota Access Pipeline (12/8)
Lakota Country Times: Arrests made in fatal Pine Ridge shootings (12/8)
Native Sun News Today Editorial: A bumpy ride with Donald Trump (12/8)
Delphine Red Shirt: We must step up and take care of our children (12/8)
James Giago Davies: Obama could have stopped #NoDAPL abuses (12/8)
Steven Newcomb: 'Unjust' war against #NoDAPL water protectors (12/8)
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community starts work on casino upgrades (12/8)
Seminole Tribe still shares gaming revenue despite lack of compact (12/8)
Chukchansi Tribe finally distributes $1.4M in overdue gaming funds (12/8)
Tribal sovereignty foe slated to join Donald Trump's administration (12/7)
Rep. Markwayne Mullin denies speculation of 'privatizing' tribal land (12/7)
Sen. Barrasso passing on gavel at Senate Indian Affairs Committee (12/7)
North Dakota county wants 'Sheriff Kirchmeier' account off Twitter (12/7)
Indian Health Service plans to award $1.4M in Native youth grants (12/7)
Rosalyn R. LaPier: How Standing Rock became a site of pilgrimage (12/7)
Lakota Country Times: North Dakota county sheriff hit with lawsuit (12/7)
Vi Waln: The #NoDAPL movement reminds them we are still here (12/7)
Native Sun News Today: Lakota artist designs 'Water is Life' tipi (12/7)
Ivan Star Comes Out: The lust for oil and the #NoDAPL movement (12/7)
Common Dreams: Veterans ask for forgiveness at Standing Rock (12/7)
Tiffany Midge: Don't shame Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for pipeline (12/7)
Editorial: A 'false victory' on the Dakota Access Pipeline easement (12/7)
Nick Zaiac: Let tribes decide what to do with their own homelands (12/7)
Redding Rancheria 'excited' about bid to move casino to new site (12/7)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe defends right to use land for gaming (12/7)
Dakota Access resumes push to complete final portion of pipeline (12/6)
Dave Archambault: It's time for water protectors to return home (12/6)
Kirk Francis: Tribes must remain vigilant despite #NoDAPL victory (12/6)
Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn: Numbers behind Standing Rock's victory (12/6)
Supreme Court schedules oral argument in tribal immunity case (12/6)
Congress passes long-awaited land bills for two tribes in Oregon (12/6)
USDA awards first $10M loan to help consolidate Indian land base (12/6)
Native Sun News Today: Lone Indian Republican wins in Montana (12/6)
Lakota Country Times: New rule curbs waste of tribal resources (12/6)
Clara Caufield: Indian Country in good hands with young leaders (12/6)
Non-Indian gaming firm fighting Wilton Rancheria casino project (12/6)
Chukchansi Tribe casino dispute leads to lawsuits in federal court (12/6)
Indian Country cheers historic decision on Dakota Access Pipeline (12/5)
Tribes and Dakota Access headed back to court for hearing in D.C. (12/5)
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp again parts with Indian Country on #NoDAPL (12/5)
Dave Archambault: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe thanks many allies (12/5)
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.