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Utah Judge Rules Tribe a Sham

UT Judge Rules Tribe a "Sham." Are Tribal Exceptions Good?

A federal judge in Utah just ordered a $63,000 civil judgment against four people claiming to be chiefs of an American Indian tribe in eastern Utah. The men conducted tribal meetings at a fast-food restaurant and claim hundreds of tribal members. They won't recognize federal or state laws, issue their own drivers' licenses and have filed numerous lawsuits against Utah authorities for ignoring their purported sovereignty.

The group/tribe calls itself the Wampanoag Nation, using the name of Mashpee Wampanoag Nation, a Massachusetts tribe who greeted the Pilgrims in 1620. Yesterday the judge ordered the men to stop pretending to be American Indians and pay Uintah County damages. He called their tribe a "complete sham." Officials with the federally recognized tribe declared that the Utah men were obvious impostors.

Given some of the benefits extended to Federally recognized tribes, it's understandable the men might want to claim ancestry. Are tribal exceptions like gaming, good for everyone? To see a little bit about it,


Benefits extended to members of tribes recognized by the US include: communication on a "government-to-government" basis with leaders of the tribes, medical and dental care, grants and programs for education, housing programs, aid in developing tribal governments and courts, resource management, and other services depending on need and interest.

One of the most visible tribal exceptions could be as close as your nearest casino: Indian Gaming.

Those in favor of Indian Gaming consider the thriving construction of casinos as a means of realizing the goal of full Tribal sovereignty, while opponents warn tribal leaders about the cultural costs of these operations. The two sides wonder whether or not casinos and culture can, in fact, co-exist peacefully — and still more wonder whether encouraging the growth of the gambling industry is good for the country or fair at the bottom line.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), passed by Congress in 1988, provides a source of income for tribes. Though Tribes have the power to tax their members, with unemployment high and taxable income low, tribes turned to gaming as a source of revenue. The IGRA was a Congressional attempt to strike a balance between the rights of tribes to engage in activities mostly free from state jurisdiction as well as the interests of states in regulating gaming activities within their boundaries.

In 2006 revenue from gaming was about $25.5 billion. Gambling on tribal lands employs about 327,000 people, and according to recent reports, led to about $80.7 billion added the U.S. economy and $11.7 billion generated in taxes. 228 tribes use gambling revenues to fund tribal governments and support social services, about 34 percent of tribes distribute direct payments to tribal members. Considered sovereign governments, tribes do not pay corporate income taxes on tribal revenue or property tax on reservation land. Those who live and work on reservations do not pay state income or property taxes, purchases made on Indian lands are tax-free.

Is this plan best for all involved? Does gaming provide a tempting pay-out that keeps tribal leaders wealthy and keeps tribal members dependent? What does a reliance on gaming do to tribal culture? To the surrounding culture? Are we gambling a rich cultural history on a pull of the slots? And what about that tax situation. . .?


Join The Conversation
chancleta chancleta 8 years
cine_lover could not have said it better, "The tribal counsels in most of the reservations are horribly corrupt. So even though there is money, people on reservations live in extreme poverty, so much so many don't have electricity, while the tribal "leaders" drive around in escalades. It is really a disgusting site. At least with Casinos it gives the tribal members jobs, and an opportunity at a better life. And their "social services" are a freaking joke."
SenecaHawk SenecaHawk 9 years
This is a long comment. But there is a lot to learn. Please read it all. The City in upstate NY is Salamanca, the only city entirely built on lands owned by a sovereign Native nation the Seneca Nation of Indians. All house-owners were leasing the land their house was built on. The leases were for 100 years. As little as $1 a year. They knew the leases were coming up for rewrites years in advance. The leases were raised to fair market value they would pay if they were off-reservation. The homeowners felt this was unfair, as they would still be paying their city taxes to non-native city government. How many other leases do you sign for 100 years for $1? Who was dealt unfairly? Second issue. The "chiefs" operating in Utah. Whether or not they were from Mashpee Wampanoag doesn't matter, they cannot operate in Utah. I can't go to another territory, not my own, and do business as a tribe. Real issue. There are a lot of people digging through their ancestries hoping to find some minute level of "Indian blood" because of the false sense that they are "entitled" to something. I call them 'clubs'. They do not have their language, their territories continuously occupied, their ceremonies intact and their bloodlines concrete. They can claim they have "applied for federal recognition", but this means nothing as most applications will never see the second round of qualifications. Unfortunately, there are also tribes on their last breath, too far gone to save most of their culture. They are only left with "my great-great grandparent was Indian". That is a tragedy. Cultural genocide was planned by the U.S. government. Stages of development: killing, removing, "reorganizing", boarding schools (would you want your kids shipped off from age 5? These were in place until 1963), and now commerce and regulation. Remember, the Department of Interior is where the Bureau of Indian Affairs is housed, used to be Department of War. Why are human beings in the Dept of Interior? Because the U.S. government declared us incompetent so they 'monitor' our natural resources: gold, uranium, lumber, wildlife, coal, etc. The government mismanaged those funds for over 150 years. DOI was found in contempt during the hearings. Nothing more has been done. Native peoples are not rich, not getting free money and not running around making up fake indian names. My rez is poor, with 1/3 still not having running water. We don't have any casinos. This is in upstate New York, not out west somewhere. We have treaties with all the major player nations of the 15th and 16th centuries. I pay taxes, I owe $80,000 in school loans I took so I could support my family. The average income on the rez is from gas stations and smoke shops. Non-owners make $6-10 and hour with no benefits. When casino tribes choose to give per-capita payments, it is much like the "tax incentive" Bush just gave us. Tribal governments are just more generous in sharing the wealth. Wouldn't it be nice if U.S. citizens got "per-capita" payments from the oil companies? They really run the government anyway, right?
fairisfair fairisfair 9 years
I have my own religion, medicine, kinship and science. That is freedome of speech and religion. Not Freedom to become a nation within a nation.
fairisfair fairisfair 9 years
I think the man who said "we lost our tribal lands to the whites" was correct. It was lost and most tribes vacated the lands and disbanded. The tribes that are now fighting to get tribal gaming started are on lands that their ancesters never even walked on. Just because my grandpa took a dump in the woods or shot a deer 700 years ago does not make that land mine! Now they are coming back and asking to be allowed rights that they never had. Re-wording history. Treaties did not allow Indian men and women property rights. They were wards of the federal government. The fed. gov. were to be the parent to the Indian tribe. You can not take back a land that is no longer yours. You lost the WAR, and you are still attempting to fight the battle. You are an American, your rights should be the same as every other man. There is no such thing as a soverign nation, that is created from politicians that were bought and paid for with gambling money. White, red, yellow, black or hispanic. This is THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. One nation under God. Any attempt to disband from the Americas should be perceived as TREASON to the country. You can not have a nation within a Nation. The American Civil War settled that argument. I know many tribal members in Michigan that refuse to fly the American Flag because they insist that that is not their flag and they spit on this country, and our government. Most Michigan Indians were from Canada. They hunted and fished here arriving by boat. That does not entitle you to take lands from other Americans who hold a deed, nor does it entitle tribes to tax the deed holders. The tribes are fighting this argument because they want the WHITE man to pay TAXEs to the TRIBE. Not because they want to be excused from taxation themselves.
softsummernite softsummernite 9 years
I'll try to make this as "happy" as possible. It's obvious that not many americans know their history. The Indigenous peoples of this hemisphere, 500+ Nations, have their own religion, science, medicine and intricate kinship systems. And for thousands of years. It was decided and written into the u.s. constitution that ALL of the American Indians (for lack of a better term) were to be dealt with as independent nations. I could go on and on, but I can only suggest that for a more informative perspective, read "American Holocaust" by Dr. David Stannard. I'm always astounded by the ignorance of some people, but CHOOSING to remain ignorant is a stain on GOD i will never understand. Oh and by the way, I am a member of the Ponka Nation, I live on a reservation in oklahoma, I am a senior at Oklahoma State University, I am not alcoholic, I do not use drugs and I work to support my family. AND! guess what? I PAY TAXES, whether it be for a loaf of bread or a stick of gum! As for "FREE" health care, etc. etc., ? well? you get what you pay for!
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
I was referring to our founding fathers, who, in their infinite wisdom decided that the power should belong to the people, and those people should be able to decide the fate of their country. No where before the creation of this great nation has that ever happened before. England and France have since followed suit, but they are just a distant second to the people that created this method of governing.
urple urple 9 years
Here's a link about the 'Iolani Palace occupation: If you have time read the other articles about this topic, and definitely check out the comments on this particular article!!
urple urple 9 years
Wait, UnDave, the "enlightened people"??? What does that mean? That the people already living there were unenlightened? This is a really interesting topic, very controversial. I find it hard, personally, to comment on it because there is so much history and stories. Generally speaking, I think that in order to live somewhat peacefully that both sides need to work together and there also needs to be respect. Another interesting topic along these lines are the Native Hawaiians. I've taken a class at the Univ of Hawai'i about their history and according to my teacher, the US unlawfully annexed Hawai'i. Just recently an Hawaiian sovereignty group occupied 'Iolani Palace claiming that the Hawaiian Kingdom is there's, not the US's. I could go on about this topic.... how bout a post on citizensugar? :)
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
All I was stating is what I experienced first hand, I know that not all NA reservations are like Seminole Tribe of FL. There are people living below poverty just like there are people in the US living the same. You just can't make assumptions that people are living the high life b/c you think they are not paying taxes. What you and I think of is fair is not the definition of our government.
faerymagick15 faerymagick15 9 years
That is why I included my statement about some being poor. I realize not all of them have had what I did.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
faerymagick15, I am referring to reservations I visited in North and South Dakota. I am not saying all reservations are like this but there are some.
faerymagick15 faerymagick15 9 years
bellaressa, I don't know which reservations you have visited but where I lived it was definitely NOT as you described. Everyone had TV's, lots of big screens actually, pipes and plumbing, with our own water treatment plant, gorgeous homes with pools, a huge rec center with baseball, basketball, and soccer teams, a local government building worth millions...their own TV station...shall I go on??? yes, there are reservations that are poor, but the majority do live in this century now. father has his doctorate as do many tribal members. Many work in government to further our cause.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
Great point faerymagick15, the funny thing is I think most people want to sweep it under the rug and only visit the subject in history class.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
People must also realize that some Native Americans and their reservations are not modernized. That means they do not have TV, pipes/plumbing, and other luxuries we take for granted. If you grow up in this environment with not a picture of the outside world all you know is this life. Their education system is poor; so it is harder for some to get to college; they have the lowest numbers in the US for education. It's funny how they get so little but their community is still having alcohol pumping into the environment. Hard to get off an addiction.
faerymagick15 faerymagick15 9 years
Interesting that you say those who live and work on "Indian or tribal land" or "reservations" do not pay tax on purchases...I beg to differ.. I am a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and paid tax on purchases made on tribal land. We do receive "dividends" from the revenues from casinos, etc...a monthly check distributed to each tribal member and under 18 members receive partial checks with the rest put into a trust. Income taxes are deducted from EVERY check EVERY month. Honestly...the small bit of land tribes still actually own and people still complain about not paying property taxes? The Seminole Tribe owns, or still has rights to its own land...but it is about 96000 acres STATEWIDE. If you think about that, its really not that much. Sure the atrocities that took place against the Native Americans happened a LONG time ago, so did the Holocaust and slavery. But does that mean we forget about these things? Of course not.
stephley stephley 9 years
Yes, Syracuse sounds more right than Albany.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Well if we didn't take all the good land and leave them with the $#!+ plots they might be more self sustaining. On a personal level in light of what has been done to and taken from Native Americans I would choose not to charge them taxes. It's not their fault that we have an economic system that implodes upon it's self now and then and the only reason we're taping them on the shoulder for money is because we're running out of places to turn.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
I think you're thinking of Syracuse... there are always issues with Native Americans out there...
stephley stephley 9 years
I think one city that was dealing with leases coming due recently was Albany (if not Albany, some place in upstate NY). The city was looking at millions of dollars in new rents if the Indians decided to modernize the leases. There were arguments over who should pay: the homeowners now living on land that they didn't know was part of the leased land, the city council, the state, or the federal government. If the Feds pay the Indians a lump sum for all the property any U.S. jurisdiction has anything on or uses, it's going to cost and fortune - then, if the Feds by the land your house is on do you then have to buy land you already thought you owned from the Feds? What if the Indians decide not to sell, and just take the land back?
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
Well then why not give them their due and be done with it?
stephley stephley 9 years
Some communities are on land 'leased' from tribes 100 years ago, at the cost of about a penny. You start re-assessing taxes, and they start re-assessing rents at current values or better yet, they'll start asking what happened to all the oil rights money the Bureau of Indian Affairs was holding for them. Study up on the subject and you'll find that the U.S. still comes out way ahead in its dealings with the native nations.
cine_lover cine_lover 9 years
That is what I figured. Just making sure :)
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
Well by not making them pay any taxes we're losing out on a lot of money, which means we're essentially giving that money to them hence reparations... And maybe those deals need to be re-examined. Cine, I think I was speaking in the history of America.
cine_lover cine_lover 9 years
Well i don't really see that he was arguing FOR genocide. But then again, I don't know how people find dead babies funny. So maybe we just differ once again.
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
I wasn't calling UnDave sick. I was calling that argument sick and I don't see how anyone can argue for genocide?
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