Tobacco taxation old battle for KBIC, state


BARAGA – “The state’s lack of respect for KBIC’s sovereignty and its violation of the tribe’s right to engage in interstate commerce is offensive and will not be tolerated by KBIC,” the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community declared Tuesday in a press release following the Michigan State Police seizure of 184 cases of cigarettes headed for the KBIC reservation.

Neither Tribal Council President Warren “Chris” Swartz nor KBIC CEO Larry Denomie responded to requests for comment on Tuesday. It is unclear if the tribe plans to challenge the seizures in court.

If it does, it will not be the first time the two sides have faced off on the issue, which has colored many of the tribe’s dealings with the state in recent years.

According to court records, KBIC challenged a seizure of untaxed cigarettes in federal courts in the mid-2000s, but lost the district court case and an appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court.

Of 12 Native American tribes in Michigan, KBIC is one of just two that does not have taxation agreements with the state, according to a 2009 Michigan Tobacco Enforcement document published online by the Michigan Depatment of Treasury.

The issue has had broad implications in the tribe’s dealings with the state and has been cited as one reason why Gov. Rick Snyder has refused to sign off on requests to place non-tribal lands in trust with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Snyder’s refusal killed a KBIC plan to build a new tribal casino on land it already owns near Marquette. The KBIC hasn’t yet sought trust status for a gas station the tribe owns, also near Marquette, but Snyder is on record opposing the project.