ATKINSON TRADING v. SHIRLEY

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
00-454
Petitioner 
Atkinson Trading
Respondent 
Shirley
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Department of Justice, as amicus curiae, supporting the respondents)
(Navajo Nation, Department of Justice, Window Rock, Arizona; argued the cause for the respondents)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Atkinson Trading Company, Inc. owns the Cameron Trading Post, which is located on non-Indian fee land within the Navajo Nation Reservation. The Cameron Trading Post consists of a hotel, restaurant, cafeteria, gallery, curio shop, retail store, and recreational vehicle facility. In 1992, the Navajo Nation enacted a hotel occupancy tax, which imposed an 8 percent tax upon any hotel room located within the exterior boundaries of the reservation. Atkinson challenged the tax under Montana v. United States. Under Montana, with two limited exceptions, Indian tribes lack civil authority over the conduct of nonmembers on non-Indian land within a reservation. The District Court upheld that tax. In affirming, the Court of Appeals concluded that the tax fell under Montana's first exception because a "consensual relationship exists in that the nonmember guests could refrain from the privilege of lodging within the confines of the Navajo Reservation and therefore remain free from liability for the [tax]."

Question 

Does the rule in Montana v. United States, that, with limited exceptions, Indian tribes lack civil authority over the conduct of nonmembers on non- Indian fee land within a reservation, apply to tribal attempts to tax nonmember activity occurring on non-Indian fee land?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for Atkinson Trading, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 25 U.S.C. 261

Yes. In a unanimous opinion delivered by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the Court held that the Navajo Nation's imposition of a hotel occupancy tax upon nonmembers on non-Indian fee land within its reservation is invalid. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote that "Indian tribes are 'unique aggregations possessing attributes of sovereignty over both their members and their territory,' but their dependent status generally precludes extension of tribal civil authority beyond these limits. The Navajo Nation's imposition of a tax upon nonmembers on non-Indian fee land within the reservation is, therefore, presumptively invalid. Because respondents have failed to establish that the hotel occupancy tax is commensurately related to any consensual relationship with [Atkinson] or is necessary to vindicate the Navajo Nation's political integrity, the presumption ripens into a holding."

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ATKINSON TRADING v. SHIRLEY. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 01 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2000/2000_00_454>.
ATKINSON TRADING v. SHIRLEY, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2000/2000_00_454 (last visited September 1, 2014).
"ATKINSON TRADING v. SHIRLEY," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 1, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2000/2000_00_454.