Oneida Nation battles longtime foe over activities on trust land

The Oneida Nation hosted its Big Apple Fest in Hobart, Wisconsin, on September 17, 2016. Photo from Oneida Tourism

The Oneida Nation of Wisconsin hosted another successful Big Apple Fest last month but a battle over the tribe's trust lands is brewing in federal court.

The tribe filed a lawsuit after the village of Hobart threatened to interfere with the annual event. According to the village, the tribe needs a local permit for the festival because it attracts a large number of people.

But the tribe says the event occurs on trust land, outside of the village's jurisdiction. During a hearing four days before the festival, a federal judge indicated the tribe was likely to win the case on the merits but declined to issue a preliminary injunction because the village promised not to interfere.

The village, though, has since responded to the lawsuit with some wild arguments. Even if the Big Apple Fest took place on trust land, those lands were not properly placed in trust because the tribe was not "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934, the village claims.

"Some or all of the property at issue was not within an existing reservation or within the present boundaries of a reservation at the time the IRA was enacted and the Nation was, therefore, not eligible to use the IRA to obtain trust status for real property it owns," the village said, referring to the Indian Reorganization Act.

A final decision hasn't been issued in the case but the judge has scheduled a status conference for November 3, to be held by telephone.

The village has long disputed the status of the tribe's trust lands but has lost a series of rulings in federal court. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2013 ruled that the village can't impose taxes on the tribe's trust lands and noted that those lands are indeed located within a reservation.

"The village itself is an enclave in the tribe’s reservation," Judge Richard Posner wrote in the unanimous decision.

Read More on the Story:
Next Step In The Hobart-Tribe Standoff (WTAQ-WLUK 10/5)
Oneida Nation files civil lawsuit against Village of Hobart over Big Apple Fest (WLUK 9/12)
Hobart will not issue citations during Oneida Nation’s Big Apple Fest (WBAY 9/12)

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