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Oklahoma might side with city in dispute over tribes and taxes





The state of Oklahoma might step into a sales tax dispute between the city of Shawnee and four tribes, Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree said.

The city wants the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, the Kickapoo Tribe and the Sac and Fox Nation to collect a 3 percent tax on the sale of goods to non-Indians. Tribal leaders, especially CPN Chairman John A. Barrett, are challenging the request.

The dispute has generated headlines and the state and other tribes have stayed out of the matter so far. But that could be changing, according to Hembree.

State authorities are “are contemplating weighing in” Hembree told Cherokee Nation Council lawmakers at a committee meeting, The Cherokee Phoenix reported..

“Obviously this is an issue that is of great importance for all Indian tribes in Oklahoma. The Choctaws, Chickasaws and Cherokees expressed our thoughts on this matter, and we stand ready to engage the city of Shawnee or the state of Oklahoma," Hembree added.

In Oklahoma Tax Commission v. Citizen Potawatomi Nation, the U.S. Supreme Court held that sales of goods to tribal members are protected by sovereignty. But transactions with non-Indians don't enjoy the same coverage, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote in the unanimous opinion.

However, there may not be a mechanism for the state, or a city, to enforce the collection of the taxes. Barrett has indicated that is the case with Shawnee.

Get the Story:
Hembree concerned with potential tribal sovereignty threats (The Cherokee Phoenix 3/27)
Shawnee, Tribes Spar War With One Another (The Countywide & Sun 3/27)

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