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Court: State can't tax tribal lands that change hands

Posted at 6:25 PM, Aug 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-15 19:25:02-04

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state can't impose property taxes on tribal lands that have changed hands without congressional approval, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

The decision from a three-judge panel from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals marks another chapter in a lawsuit four Chippewa tribes from northern Wisconsin filed in 2018.

The Lac Courte Oreilles, the Lac du Flambeau, the Red Cliff and the Bad River sued after the state imposed property taxes on land within their reservations. Such land is immune from state property taxes under an 1854 treaty, but the state argued that the land is eligible because tribal members sold it to non-American Indians before the land was were sold back to tribal members.

The three-judge panel affirmed that the land isn't taxable without congressional approval, saying only Congress can diminish tribes' sovereignty and the treaty is best read to promise tax immunity even for reacquired lands.

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