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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Should it be tax-exempt?

--posted by Tony Garcia on 3/31/2005

A long time ago there was an Indian tribe in New York that signed a treaty that gave them some 300,000 acres and sovereignty. That was 1794 when the Treaty of Canandaigua gave the tribe "free use and enjoyment" of the land.

Some parcels of land were transfered from the tribe to a member of the tribe in 1805. He then sold the land in 1807 to "a non-Indian". For a while they remained owned by "non-Indians" until finally the tribe "reacquired them in open-market transactions." For nearly 200 years the governance of that land laid with the State, county and municipalities.

The catch is that the land in question lies within the boundaries of the reservation originally occupied by the tribe. Therefore the tribe said that the property taxes could not be collected from the tribe in accordance with the treaty.

Now, what do you think the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday?

I'll give you a hint, Justice Ginsburg wrote the decision.

In an 8-1 decision (Souter dissenting) that I agree with the Court said that the property is not subject to the treaty because
1) the jurisdiction of the treaty over the property ceded with the purchase of the land in the open market
2) they waited almost 200 years to assert their demand for exemption. The tribe had no problem with the regulations for most of that time.

Good call. Use it or lose it is the lesson.


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