CASS COUNTY, MN v. LEECH LAKE BAND OF CHIPPEWA INDIANS

Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
97-174
Petitioner 
Cass County, MN
Respondent 
Leech Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
Advocates
(Walker, Minnesota, argued the cause for the petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of court, supporting the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

In 1993, Cass County, Minnesota began assessing ad valorem taxes on 21 parcels of reservation land that had been alienated from tribal control under the Nelson Act and later reacquired by the Leech Lake Band of Chippewa, a federally recognized Indian tribe. In 1995, the Band filed suit, seeking a declaratory judgment that Cass County could not tax the 21 parcels. The District Court held that all of the land that had been alienated from tribal ownership under the Nelson Act was taxable. Affirming in part, the Court of Appeals held that 13 parcels that had been allotted to individual Indians could be taxed so long as they had been patented after passage of the Burke Act proviso, because the explicit mention of "taxation" in the proviso expressed "unmistakably clear" intent. Reversing in part, the court held that the eight parcels sold as pine lands or homestead land could not be taxed because those sections did not incorporate the General Allotment Act or include any mention of an intent to tax lands distributed under them which might become reacquired by the Band.

Question 

May state and local governments tax reservation land that was made alienable by Congress and sold to non-Indians by the Federal Government but was later repurchased by a tribe?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for Cass County, MN, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 25 Stat. 642

Yes. In a unanimous opinion delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court held that ad valorem taxes may be imposed upon such land. "When Congress makes Indian reservation land freely alienable, it manifests an unmistakably clear intent to render such land subject to state and local taxation," wrote Justice Thomas. Repurchasing the land by an Indian tribe does not return the land to tax-exempt status. Justice Thomas concluded that "[t]he eight parcels at issue here were therefore taxable unless and until they were restored to federal trust protection."

Cite this Page
CASS COUNTY, MN v. LEECH LAKE BAND OF CHIPPEWA INDIANS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 23 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_97_174>.
CASS COUNTY, MN v. LEECH LAKE BAND OF CHIPPEWA INDIANS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_97_174 (last visited October 23, 2014).
"CASS COUNTY, MN v. LEECH LAKE BAND OF CHIPPEWA INDIANS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 23, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_97_174.