Tribes take issue with Town of Parker directive over business taxes

The Chairman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) has written a public letter to the Town of Parker over a recent directive telling businesses within Town limits that they do not need to pay taxes to the Tribes.

The letter, which says that the Tribes are “deeply concerned” about the Town’s “grave error”, cites various cases that amount to “long-standing legal authority” to tax businesses within the town.

“Not only is your directive based on the false premise that tribal taxes are ‘not applicable’ in the Town of Parker limits, the letter has unnecessarily sewn confusion regarding the Tribes’ jurisdiction, for which Town businesses ultimately bear liability,” Chairman Dennis Patch writes.

“Moreover, your letter insinuates that the Tribes do not have jurisdiction in the Town of Parker. This is incorrect. The Town of Parker is considered Indian Country. Colorado River Indian Tribes v. Town of Parker, 705 F.Supp. 473 (D. Ariz 1989). In other words, the fee lands within the Town of Parker have not been disestablished and therefore are Indian Country for purposes of determining jurisdiction over Indians and non-Indians.”

CRIT says the cases it cites, which includes a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding reservation boundaries, “put to rest any legitimate question regarding the extent of the Tribes’ regulatory jurisdiction.”

The letter ends with a demand that the Town “immediately take steps to clarify the Tribes’ sovereign taxing authority,” warning that the Town risks “ensnaring law-abiding businesses, upon whom both the Town and Tribes rely, in the Town’s own misinformed efforts to undermine the Tribes’ jurisdiction.”

This is the not the first dust-up between the Tribes and the Town this year. Earlier in the summer, the two local governments exchanged heated words publicly over whether the Tribes or the State of Arizona could impose lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic within town limits.

The full text of Chairman Patch’s letter is below.

November 2, 2020
Town of Parker
P.O. Box 610
Parker, AZ 85344
RE: Response to September 22, 2020 Letter
Dear Mayor Beaver and Town Council Members:

The Colorado River Indian Tribes (“Tribes”), a federally recognized sovereign Indian tribe, received your letter to Town of Parker Businesses dated September 22, 2020. The Tribes are deeply concerned by your directive to businesses in the Town of Parker not to pay lawful Tribal taxes, contrary to long-standing legal authority permitting tribes to regulate persons doing business in Indian Country, including through taxation. See, e.g., White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker, 448 U.S. 136, 138 (1980); Water Wheel Camp Recreational Area, Inc. v. LaRance, 642 F.3d 802 (9th Cir. 2011).

The Town needs to review the foregoing cases and federal tax law as it relates to businesses operating within Reservations so that it may make informed decisions regarding tax policy. Your September 22 letter invites businesses to ignore and thwart the Tribes’ taxing authority. This is a grave error. Not only is your directive based on the false premise that tribal taxes are “not applicable” in the Town of Parker limits, the letter has unnecessarily sewn confusion regarding the Tribes’ jurisdiction, for which Town businesses ultimately bear liability. The letter also glosses over the reality that the Tribes’ taxes are very fact specific, and what businesses may have legal liability for a tax depends on a number of factors including the nature of the business’s services and where the transaction takes place.

Moreover, your letter insinuates that the Tribes do not have jurisdiction in the Town of Parker. This is incorrect. The Town of Parker is considered Indian Country. Colorado River Indian Tribes v. Town of Parker, 705 F.Supp. 473 (D. Ariz 1989). In other words, the fee lands within the Town of Parker have not been disestablished and therefore are Indian Country for purposes of determining jurisdiction over Indians and non-Indians. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding reservation boundaries only serves to confirm the ruling of Parker. McGirt v. Oklahoma, 140 S. Ct. 2452, 2468-69 (2020) (holding that “[o]nce a block of land is set aside for an Indian reservation and no matter what happens to the title of individual plots within the area, the entire block retains its reservation status until Congress explicitly indicates otherwise” and that extratextual sources do not overcome statutory terms (quoting Solem v. Bartlett, 465 U.S. 463, 470 (1984)) to find that Creek Nation jurisdiction remained over 19 million acres of land set aside for Muscogee Creek Nation, including a portion of Tulsa, Oklahoma); see also Nebraska v. Parker, 136 S. Ct. 1072, 1082 (2016) (in dispute over whether Tribe had jurisdiction to impose a beverage control ordinance, Court held that Congress did not intend to diminish Omaha Indian Reservation). These cases put to rest any legitimate question regarding the extent of the Tribes’ regulatory jurisdiction.

The Tribes demand that the Town immediately take steps to clarify the Tribes’ sovereign taxing authority. Otherwise, the Town risks ensnaring law-abiding businesses, upon whom both the Town and Tribes rely, in the Town’s own misinformed efforts to undermine the Tribes’ jurisdiction. We trust this letter resolves this matter.

Sincerely yours,
COLORADO RIVER INDIAN TRIBES
Dennis Patch
Chairman

cc: Rebecca Loudbear, Attorney General

18 comments

  1. Matthew Staple

    If the land and Parker belongs to the Indians the tribe then respect them and give them their tax money have more respect to them but if it doesn’t then they need to have some respect too but if it’s the tribes plan then you need to have respect for their land too

  2. Kathy Prier

    👊🏻 CRIT! Respect.

  3. Angel Concha

    Parker is checkerboarded not all of it is tribal land tho

  4. Alan Nelson

    What about the County arbitrarily declaring that Indians that own real (deeded) property on the Reservation are not eligible for Property Tax exemption under the Arizona Constitution (Article 20, Section 5) which states:

    “….no taxes shall be imposed by this state on any lands or other property within an Indian reservation owned or held by any Indian….”

    As the Tribes have pointed out, the Supreme Court ruled that all land within Reservation boundaries is Indian Country and hence “within an Indian reservation.”

  5. Norma Ray

    Helping their families/community helps our community, too.

  6. Joe Duran

    Taxation without representation

  7. Judy Cook

    I see Parker cheriffs is still the same a bunch of lying ass holes

  8. Samuel Quezada

    Angel Concha they are saying in the letter the town of parker is considered Indian country..

  9. Angel Concha

    Samuel Quezada which not all.of parker is sertain areas yes but trying to say all of it is is off the wall

  10. Samuel Quezada

    Angel Concha you are correct. They own properties inside of TOWN OF PARKER. But I guess their insinuating that the town itself is CONSIDERED Indian country just because of both being so close to each other I guess is what I would think.

  11. Angel Concha

    Samuel Quezada their just mad that can’t tax everyone

  12. TRUMp is for Indie RsirvatIOn

  13. Alex Covarrubias

    Angel Concha The town is within the reservation boundaries therefore making it Indian country. This is old news.

  14. This will all change it emila flores wins the election for chairman. She half Indian, half Mexican . When her father died the mother had no more assistance from crit because they considered her a outsider Trini told me that herself. Flores will be more partial to all races.

  15. Sounds like the mafia getting protection money from businesses that are bringing customers and money into the area already. How many times does a small business have to pay taxes to stay alive and earn a living

  16. PATCH = GREED

  17. I have no respect for CRIT. When sections of Parker are not on the reservation CRIT does not deserve the tax money. Just because it’s Indian Country doesn’t mean shit.

  18. The Boston Tea Party happened due to this, NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION! The Tribes say that they can tax on DEEDED Land, Not WITHOUT REPRESENTATION. If you are not a member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, you cannot vote in their elections, you cannot attend their meetings and you have no say on their government what so ever. Not in the United States of America, this is part of our forefathers and the Constitution. If they want to try, bring it. I am willing to spend the money to take this through the Federal Courts and if need be all the way to the Supreme Court, which the tribes do want. They know that if a case goes to the Supreme Court, that they and all the other tribes are in trouble. The Court does NOT believe in blanket sovereignty and will possibly overturn it. I have personally read memos and letters between several tribes, warning each other to keep cases from going to them for this very reason. So if the businesses band together and legally challenge them, the tribes would be in trouble. Stand up for your rights as a citizen and do not allow them to take your hard earned money. Also if the tribes are sovereign, why can they vote in town, county, state and federal elections? They want a say in the government, they were need a say in theirs if they are going to attempt to rule over us. If not BRING IT TRIBES and see what happens, there can always be an uprising.

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