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SCOTUS Lets 10th Circuit Opinion Stay in Osage Nation Lawsuit

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 30, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that imposed taxes on the Osage Nation of the Oklahoma area. The Tenth Circuit lawsuit dealt with the issue of whether tribal citizens who live and work in Osage County are exempt from state income taxes.

The case ends at the Tenth Circuit, as SCOTUS denied the certiorari petition for the Pawhuska-based tribe.

The case arose in 1999, reports NewsOK, when a member of the Osage Nation challenged the state of Oklahoma's right to tax her income.

In 2001, the tribe got involved in the case and brought suit against the Oklahoma Tax Commission, claiming that Congress never disestablished its 1.5 million-acre reservation in northeastern Oklahoma. The tribe also claimed that the tribe members who lived and worked in the area were exempt from paying state income taxes, under federal law.

Currently, the law states that tribal members who work for the tribe and live in recognized Indian land do not have to pay state taxes. The Osage Nation asserts that their Reservation was not formally disestablished by Congress. As a result, the entire Osage county should be considered Indian country.

The lower court disagreed with the Osage tribe and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the lower court.

The Supreme Court is now deciding not to hear the case, which leaves the Osage Nation with the Tenth Circuit ruling.

Principal Chief John Red Eagle said he's disappointed with the decision, reports NewsOK. He stated that no programs, services or businesses of the Osage would be affected by the ruling.

"We will continue to exercise our inherent rights as a sovereign."

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