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Cass County v. Leech Lake Band of Chippewa Indians

524 U.S. 103 (1998)

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Cass County v. Leech Lake Band of Chippewa Indians

United States Supreme Court

524 U.S. 103 (1998)

Facts

Following the General Allotment Act of 1887, most of the reservation land belonging to the Leech Lake Band of Chippewa Indians (the tribe) (plaintiff) was relinquished. Pursuant to the Nelson Act of 1889, much of the relinquished land was carved into allotments available to tribal owners. Other parcels were opened to the general public and sold to non-Indians. By the late 1970s, the tribe owned only about 5 percent of the original reservation land. At this point, the tribe began to purchase back lands that had been individually allotted to members and nonmembers of the tribe. However, Cass County, Minnesota (the county) (defendant) imposed ad valorem taxes on several of these reacquired parcels of land. The tribe paid the taxes but brought suit in federal district court, seeking a declaratory judgment that the county could not tax the reacquired parcels. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the county. The federal court of appeals reversed in part, holding that taxes could be assessed on parcels that had been allotted to individual Native Americans but not parcels that had been owned by non-Indians. The case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)

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