Thursday, December 3, 2009

IRS to auction land on Indian reservation. UNA's Response

IRS to auction land on Indian reservatio..n. UNA's Response To The Federal Government..: Remember The Elouise Cobell Indian Trust lawsuit!
IRS to auction land on Indian reservation

By Jeff Martin, USA TODAY
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The Internal Revenue Serviceplans to auction land on one of America's poorest Indian reservations today, after efforts Wednesday to block the sale in U.S. District Court failed.
According to a federal lawsuit filed by the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, the IRS intends to auction the land to settle delinquent federal employment taxes it maintains are owed by the tribe.
On Wednesday, a judge denied the restraining order seeking to block the sale, but, according to Terry Pechota, the attorney for Crow Creek Tribal Farms, the judge indicated that he would set the case for trial.
The auction will occur, but no land would change hands until after a court date in late March, said Duane St. John, a member of the tribal council.
The tribe has been planning to develop wind energy, and "this is our prime wind energy land," St. John said. "So that's going to be another big hurt to us."
At issue: About 7,100 acres of land on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation in central South Dakota, the tribe said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
Indian tribes are usually not subject to federal taxes, but there are exceptions for business entities associated with tribes, said David Getches, dean of the University of Colorado Law School.
According to the lawsuit, as of August, the tribe owed the IRS about $3,123,790 in back taxes, penalties and interest. The estimated value of the land is $4,634,000, according to a Pierre appraisal company, court records show.
The land is now owned by Crow Creek Tribal Farms, a corporation formed under tribal laws which filed for bankruptcy in May 2009, according to records from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of South Dakota.
In its lawsuit, the tribe claims that because of erroneous tax advice received from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), it became delinquent in payment of employment taxes around 2003.
The tribe maintains that it was told that because it was a federally recognized tribe, it was not necessary to pay federal employment taxes, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit does not specify what type of employment was involved.
Nedra Darling, spokeswoman for the Department of the Interior, which oversees the BIA, and IRS spokeswoman Carrie Resch said their agencies do not comment on pending litigation.
"It's the first time I've ever heard of the IRS moving against tribally owned property in this manner," said Robert Williams Jr., a law professor and director of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the University of Arizona.
Martin reports for the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Native American Indian - Cobell Case

For More Information Contact:

Elouise Cobell
Lead Plaintiff
Blackfeet Reservation Development Fund, Inc.
PO Box 3029
101 Pata Street
Browning, MT 59417

Elouise Cobell:

The $7 Billion Offer That Never Was

A number of news accounts – particularly The Associated Press - are incorrectly saying that the plaintiffs have rejected a $7 billion offer from the government to settle the Indian Trust lawsuit. That simply isn’t true.

Here are the facts:

The government has never offered to settle the Cobell vs. Kempthorne lawsuit at any price. Every proposal made by plaintiffs and by mediators to settle the case has been rejected by the government.

The Bush administration in March 2007 suggested it was willing to spend $7 billion over 10 years to resolve a wide range of major Indian issues, including land fractional land claims, the Cobell suit, all individual land mismanagement claims, the 100 plus trust lawsuits filed by tribes and pay for all of trust reform as well.

Oh yes, and it also included provisions to deny Indians any right to bring any future lawsuits for future mismanagement no matter how egregious. That final provision was essentially a license to steal.

This proposal was universally condemned by everyone not associated with the government, including a wide range of Native leaders.

It never went beyond conceptual testimony to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. And it contained no specific amount to settle the Cobell litigation.

In testimony before the committee Ms. Cobell said the figure was insufficient to settle her case alone. "This is not an offer -- instead, it is a slap in the face for every individual [with] trust fund litigation," she said. She did note that a mediator had suggested recoveries could run between $7 billion to $9 billion in the case. She said she "would want to talk about that more." Hardly a rejection.

But the Bush administration never followed up on her overture. In fact, federal officials have never made any offer to the Cobell legal team to settle the class action lawsuit for any specific amount.

In 2006, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee did introduce legislation to settle the lawsuit without a specific dollar amount. The Committee later amended that bill to include an $8 billion figure but the bill never moved out of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee because of objections raised by the government.

Lawyers for the Justice Department and the Interior Department have made clear throughout the Cobell litigation that the government's firm position is that the Individual Indian Money (IIM) Trust is not a real trust and that Indians are owed nothing no matter how much money and other assets are missing or have been looted from the Trust.

The position of the Cobell plaintiffs has long been that we will consider reasonable offers from the United States to resolve this case.

Unfortunately, none has been put forth.

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