Law | Trust

Oneida Nation wins lawsuit over local taxation of trust property

A federal judge has sided with the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin in a taxation dispute.

The tribe sued the village of Hobart for imposing storm water management fees on trust lands. In a 22-page decision issued yesterday, Judge William C. Griesbach concluded the effort constituted an "impermissible tax."

"The Supreme Court long ago determined that tribal lands, held by Indians with whom the United States maintains a formal trust relationship, cannot be taxed by states wherein they are located," Griesbach wrote. He said the village's "fees" operate in the same manner as a tax and there are impermissible.

Barring further appeals, the decision removes the village's threat of foreclosure on the tribe's property. But as Griesbach noted in the conclusion of his ruling, the two parties are likely to remain on opposing sides in the future.

"As suggested above, this is not the first case over which this court has presided between the tribe and the village, and it is unlikely to be the last," Griesbach wrote. "The central problem is that a significant portion of land interspersed throughout the village is owned by a sovereign Indian tribe and is therefore not subject to the village’s taxing and regulatory or zoning powers."

Tribal leaders, including recently elected Chairman Ed Delgado, have sought to improve relations with the village amid repeated taxation, land-into-trust, law enforcement and sovereignty disputes. But efforts have been hindered in part by the employment of a former leader of an anti-Indian group as the village's director of "community development and tribal affairs."

"The plain fact, however, is that the interests of the village and the tribe are not aligned; their constituencies are not the same and they have vastly different plans for the future. As a result, cooperation is more difficult," Griesbach concluded. "But this does not change the law."

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Oneida Nation v. Hobart.

Get the Story:
Oneidas win lawsuit over storm water fees (Fox 11 News 9/6)

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