The Saginaw-Chippewa Indian Tribe won a victory last month in an ongoing lawsuit over the boundaries of Indian land in Isabella County. The suit has yet to go to trial, but it’s been in court for years.
Should the tribe win, it would exert tribal sovereignty throughout five townships, and half the city of Mt. Pleasant.
Just what that would mean is still not clear to Mt. Pleasant’s Mayor, Jim Holton. “Well the city has several concerns, obviously, with this. And it’s still a lot of theory. It’s still a lot of ’What if’s.’”
Some of Holton’s big “What if’s” include questions of zoning, law enforcement, and taxation. “Who to tax, how can we tax. Can we collect on tax? It’s obviously vital to our survival as a city, with infrastructure, roads and all those things.”
Saginaw-Chippewa leaders do not want to comment on ongoing litigation. But Matthew Fletcher says – as he understands it – those last two are also some of the tribe’s biggest concerns: taxation and law enforcement. Fletcher runs the Indigenous Law Center at Michigan State University.
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From the Morning Sun:
A federal judge has temporarily halted the lawsuit seeking to define the land inside the traditional boundaries of the Isabella Reservation as “Indian Country” while he decides what kind of case Isabella County and the city of Mt. Pleasant can present.
A hearing is set for next month before U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington in Bay City, where the suit is being heard. The issue is whether the city and county will be permitted to argue that the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe waited too long to file its suit, and whether what the Tribe is asking for is impossible.
The Tribe filed suit in 2005, asking Ludington to declare that all or part of seven townships in Isabella County, and the northern half of the city of Mt. Pleasant, are “Indian country” as defined by federal law. The Tribe is asking for an injunction to prevent the governor, attorney general and state treasurer from exerting criminal or civil jurisdiction over the Tribe or its members “in a manner not allowed in Indian country.”
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