Both sides can work together

Published 9:12am Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Anyone who thought the dispute between the Escambia County Commission and Poarch Band of Creek Indians would end with a statement last week from the acting chief of the Interior Department’s Indian Affairs Bureau was likely mistaken.
But our local officials — both county and tribe — can take this into their own hands and come to an agreement, because everyone has a lot to lose in this situation.
Here’s where we started: Commission members said they wanted a federal opinion about whether Poarch is on federally protected property, arguing that a three-year-old Supreme Court ruling could say otherwise. The county’s argument is that a citizen could sue commissioners if Poarch actually owes property taxes because its land is not protected.
Poarch, of course, argues that it is protected, and the Interior Department agreed. It stands to reason that means the tribe’s property cannot be taxed, but who knows whether a court would rule that way.
And Poarch officials must know there is a possibility of that, because they are lobbying for a so-called “legislative fix” for the Supreme Court ruling.
And while we don’t think that the county commission itself would take Poarch to court, a citizen certainly could take the county to court. Regardless of how the case ended up, it would cost taxpayers and the county a lot of money.
So we see it as a positive sign that commissioners said this week they want to hold off on any legal action and meet with tribal members.
Both sides have said in recent weeks that they have reached out but were rebuffed. Who is telling the truth? We don’t know, and at this point we don’t care anymore.
We need both sides to come to the table and meet. It is in the best interest of everyone involved — the county, its taxpayers and the tribe and its members — to come to an agreement that avoids a lengthy legal battle.
Playing this out in court could be a gamble for everyone.

  • tuschkahouma

    Since there is no sense of Federal Indian Law in this
    discussion I thought I’d bring some. Firstly, as stated
    by US Supreme Court Justice John Marshall in the Cherokee
    cases against Georgia in the 1830′s, both tribes and states are sovereign to govern themselves yet dependant
    on the Federal Government for protection. The US Congress
    has plenary power over both Indian tribes and US States in the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. Memo to the State of Alabama and Escambia County….you are barking up the wrong tree with this Carcieri nonsense.
    It is such nonsense that if not for Republican US House of Representative members there would already be a Carcieri fix so to speak. Non tribal people and their
    governments have tried this land taxation nonsense on federal tribal lands for almost two centuries. Even
    without this Carcieri nonsense being wrongly applied to
    the Poarch Creek lands have any of you heard of US Title
    18 Section 1151, parts a,b,and c,? This is the legal
    definition of Indian Country as stated in Pevar’s Guide
    to Indian Law or the Cohen’s Handbook of Indian Law. This
    case came about due to the illegal attempt to tax a
    Shawnee Tribal Allotment in Johnson County, Kansas
    by the Johnson County Tax Commission in the late 1860′s.
    This doesn’t sound familiar does it? The US Supreme
    Court ruled that Mr. Blue Jacket’s allotment was Indian Country defined by the law above and was non taxable Indian land. There has been land in trust for these
    Creek people in particular since the 1820′s. What was
    Alabama before the State of Alabama existed? Creek
    land, Cherokee land, Chickasaw land, Choctaw land.
    The Narragansett Tribe who was the victim in the
    Carceiri case had no federal recognition prior to the
    period between 1978 and 1983. The Poarch Creeks had
    trust land and loyalty agreements with the United States
    in the 1820′s and 1830′s and were on US censuses as Indians between 1860 and 1900 and had land in trust until
    1924. There are guidelines in place to separate the fate
    of the Narragansett tribe from other federally recognized
    tribes who came into existence after the passage of the
    Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 which was the divide
    and conquer line for the anti Indian politicians and groups. It is known that there is enough diversity
    in legal tribal existence in the US that this Carceiri ruling cannot be applied broadly. It would be nice if
    Escambia County acknowledged this. It would prevent a
    waste of taxpayer’s money as a state tried to ignore
    the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution to trespass
    on federal tribal lands. Of course Alabama used to love
    to ignore federal court laws in the 1950′s and 1960′s.
    That darn federal government. You know the one whom
    the states and tribes are dependant sovereigns of.

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