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2017-11-30 / Voices

Bennett County Commissioners Resolution: Part 12

BY CAIRNS
CENTER FOR AMERICAN INDIAN RESEARCH AND NATIVE STUDIES

CAIRNS this week continues an in-depth examination of the wording of Resolution #5-2016,which is an effort by the Bennett County Commissioners to secure federal funding “in lieu of property taxes on Indian trust lands.” Last week, Paragraphs 22 through 24 of the resolution were covered. This week, the final paragraph will be examined.

Whereas the other paragraphs dealt with the background and rationale for seeking federal funding in lieu of property taxes on Indian trust lands, this final paragraph requests that the South Dakota Association of County Commissioners (SDACC) support this effort on behalf of all South Dakota counties with Indian trust lands.

The paragraph states:

“Therefore, be it resolved: The Bennett County Board of Commissioners requests that a new Policy Statement be added to the SDACC Policy Statements to read as follows: SDACC supports lobbying the federal government to demand that the Congress of the United States live up to its obligations under the Supreme Court decision in Cherokee Nation versus Georgia, 1831, and provide funding adequate to fund the county services provided to and for Indian people living on trust lands in South Dakota Counties, if not in a direct payment of property taxes, then in some form of Impact Aid based on the trust land population in the county similar and to Impact Aid for Schools.”

The demand for federal funding rests entirely on the assertion that the 1831 U.S. Supreme Court decision obligates the U.S. to provide funding to counties with Indian trust lands. In Paragraph 11, the resolution asserts that this decision “determined that the federal government is responsible for all Indian peoples wants and needs.”

The 1831 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Cherokee Nation v Georgia had absolutely nothing to do with the federal government being responsible for the wants and needs of Indian peoples. The federal government is not responsible for the wants and needs of American Indians, nor is it obligated to provide funding to counties with lands adjacent to Indian trust lands.

This concluding paragraph also asserts that the county provides services to Indian trust lands. This too is false. Bennett County does not provide any services to Indian trust lands.

The false assertions in the resolution could be the result of ignorance or purposeful deceit. But these concerns were brought to the attention of the commissioners in August of 2016, and they refused to correct them. Therefore, the assertions may accurately be classified as lies.

Finally, for the sake of curiosity, let’s assume that, magically, Bennett County receives the $1 million it is requesting for expenses related to Indian trust lands and American Indians living in the county. How will the commissioners ensure that American Indians are represented on the commission? How will the commissioners ensure that owners of Indian trust lands are represented on the commission? After all, if there were no Indian trust land owners, and no American Indians on the commission, then wouldn’t the result be a clear case of taxation without representation?

So to sum up the concluding paragraph of the resolution: The county is demanding that the federal government reimburse it based on a fictitious obligation claimed to be contained in a Supreme Court decision, for services it does not provide, to people who have no representation on the commission, and therefore no voice in how the money will be spent.

The result is a senseless resolution with no credibility that further marginalizes the people upon whose lands and lives it is based. Nevertheless, the commission continues to promote it across our state and beyond.

Next week our examination of this resolution will conclude.

*The Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies is an Indian-controlled nonprofit research and education center founded in 2004 and located in the Lacreek District of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

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