Other news from around the country
In January, 2000 a federal judge in Billings ruled that non-tribal members do not have to pay a 4% resort tax on businesses operating on fee land, even if it lies within the boundaries of the tribe's claimed reservation. The judge issued the ruling in response to the tribe's appeal of a U.S. Bankruptcy Court decision.
In 1995 the Crow tribe enacted its resort tax and it has been in court trying to enforce it ever since. According to the Billings Gazette newspaper, tribal taxation authority ranks among the top legal issues in Indian Country. Lately the U.S. Supreme Court has issued rulings that have tended to limit tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians on non-Indian land within reservations, but the issue of tribal taxation remains an open question.
The judge in his court decision stated "The tribe's position appears to be based, in part, upon the erroneous premise that a nonmember is subject to the tribe's jurisdiction simply because the non-member does business within the exterior boundaries of the reservation, even if the business is conducted on non-member fee land and does not significantly involve the tribe. The inherent sovereign powers of the tribe are not so broad."
Larry Gallagher of the federal agency, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), told a Missoula Montana newspaper that "In my opinion, the control and ownership of water is the largest and most important tool tribes have with regard to economic development. In the future, water is going to be a major, primary, resource for the tribes." Chris Tweeten from the Montana Attorney General's Office agreed saying, "If you own the water, you own the future in many respects. Water is going to be a very valuable asset..."
In February, 2000 the Appellate Court for the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa issued its first ruling, in its first and only case, involving the tribe's claim of the power to enforce zoning ordinances against non-members on non-member owned fee land. The case, involving Keck Melby, a local marina operator on the North Shore of Lake Superior, was sent to tribal court after a federal judge in Minnesota ruled Mr. Melby must exhaust all remedies before seeking redress in federal court. Mr. Melby, whose fee simple property lies within the exterior boundaries of the former Grand Portage Reservation, built a pole shed following all state and county zoning regulations. The tribe enacted it's own restrictions and has attempted to enforce them on Mr. Melby.
As expected, the tribal court and the tribal appellate court, both ruled against Mr. Melby. According to the tribal court "Neither the U.S. Constitution nor any act of Congress prohibits the application of the Band's Land Use Ordinance to Melby." The court goes on to say that simply because Mr. Melby has participated in commerce with the Band by the use of tribal water facilities and waste disposal facilities, this gives the tribe the right to regulate his property.
The court also dismissed Mr. Melby's assertion that the Band's zoning laws are discriminatory in nature. The court said that, "When Melby makes claims of discrimination or constitutional violations as a result of his lack of voting power or voice in the government establishing the ordinance, his claim of a lack of equal protection is an untested assumption. Melby may be making an all-too-common assumption that permeates the present-day view of many Indian activities, such as the exercise of self-government or retained treaty rights: that a different right is a 'special' unequal right that by its mere exercise discriminates against those who are not Indian. Melby's assertions in this vein are without merit."
(Editor's note: This last statement reaffirms the position of the federal government and the tribal establishment; you can throw out the protection of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution for U.S. citizens on U.S. soil when dealing with Indian tribal governments not only on former and existing reservations but anywhere special treaty rights are found to exist.
The section about doing business with the tribe should be a wake-up call to all those in favor of the joint sewer and water project on the West shore of Mille Lacs Lake in Central Minnesota. Guess what, if you receive sewer and water service from this project, and I understand the well will be on Indian trust land, you will now fall under tribal taxing and zoning authority according to the tribe.)
The Department of Natural Resources and the Attorney General are supporting a bill in the state legislature that would relinquish the state's right and responsibility to manage public natural resources on land within the boundaries of the Red Lake Indian Reservation located in Minnesota's Northwest Angle. The bill will allow non-band members to hunt deer without a state license in the area. The support of the DNR is a reversal of their prior non-discriminatory position; that non-band members need a state license to hunt and transport game on all land within the state.
Despite the recent upswing in the price of crude oil and gasoline at the pumps, the Clinton administration is pressing ahead with a plan to return 80,000 acres of federal land to the Northern Ute Tribe. According to reports, the land includes Naval Oil Shale Reserve No.2, which was acquired by the U.S. in the early 1900s to protect the petroleum deposits in case of a national emergency. According to Clinton administration officials, the reserves are no longer important.
Tribal leaders have agreed to a number of concessions in return for being given the new land, including accepting it as private property - meaning state and local taxes would apply, as opposed to placing the land in trust for the tribe.
(Editor's note: Boy, the Clinton administration sure drives a hard bargain. I bet they really had to twist some arms to get the tribe to agree to the "concessions" in order to get 88,000 acres of oil reserves for free.)
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the federal government and the state of Hawaii on February 23, striking down a state constitutional provision that limits the people allowed to vote for the trustees for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to only native Hawaiians with ancestry dating back prior to 1778, when the first Europeans are known to have arrived. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs administers state funds and proceeds of public land to aid descendants of original Hawaiians.
The majority opinion (7-2) says that, "A state may not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race, and this law does so." The court went on to say that Hawaii, in it's attempt to protect the natives' heritage, must keep in mind that the U.S. Constitution has become the heritage of all citizens of Hawaii.
The Supreme Court based its decision on the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, a post Civil War measure to protect the rights of former slaves. This ruling marks the first time the court has said the amendment protects everyone, including whites. The ruling does follow a recent trend toward racial equality which has lead the court to strike down several government efforts to give racial preferences.
President Clinton has proposed a $1.2 billion increase in the budget for Indians. This brings the total projected spending on Indian programs to $9.4 billion, a 12% increase over last year. Members of the tribal establishment say it is still not enough. To put things in perspective, there are roughly 2.4 million Indians in the United States, with only about 20%, or 500,000 living on reservations. Almost all the federal spending is directed to Indian tribal governments and reservations. That's almost $19,000 for every man woman and child on the reservation and does not include the vast amounts of money most states with reservations spend.
(Editor's note: It begs the question of why conditions are so bad on many of our nations Indian reservations? According to Ms. Scott Kayla Morrison, President of Citizen's Equal Rights Foundation, only pennies on the dollar ever reach Indian residents. The vast majority is wasted in the federal bureaucracies (mostly run by Indians) and by unaccountable and corrupt tribal leaders. Yet we have a President and a left wing establishment that feels throwing more money at the problem, with even less federal oversight, is the solution. To further this agenda, the Clinton/Gore administration created the Office of Tribal Justice to promote government to government relations with Indian tribes and insure aggressive representation of tribal sovereignty in the courts. They also created a permanent White House working group composed of all executive branch departments to advance tribal sovereignty across the administration.
Thankfully, there are a few courageous people from within the Indian community like Ms. Morrison, who are willing to speak out against this policy which holds Indian people in poverty as a means of creating support to fleece the American tax payer and perpetuate their government jobs and programs.)