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Citizen Potawatomi Nation responds to Tenth Circuit’s decision to vacate award

OKLAHOMA CITY – A local Native American tribe says a decision by the Tenth Circuit panel has muddied the waters when it comes to its laws in comparison to the state government.

In April of 2016, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation requested arbitration after the Oklahoma Tax Commission filed a complaint to revoke the permits for sales tax, low-point beer and mixed beverages from all tribal enterprises.  Those enterprises include FireLake Entertainment Center, FireLake Corner Store, FireLake Discount Foods, FireLake Express Grocery and Grand Casino Hotel Resort.

The state argued that under the Model Tribal Gaming Compact, the tribal nation was required to collect, report and pay state sales taxes from all tribal businesses. The tribe argued that the state was attempting to use the compact to unlawfully impose state sales taxes on tribal land.

At the time, an arbitrator ruled in favor of Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

“Since 2014, the State of Oklahoma has attempted to unlawfully impose its taxation jurisdiction on the Nation,” George Wright, tribal attorney for Citizen Potawatomi Nation added. “In 2016, the Nation prevailed in arbitration against the state, which was conducted before a former Oklahoma Supreme Court justice.”

The state appealed the decision to the 10th Circuit panel, arguing that the arbitration clause was invalid.

Now, the three-judge panel has ruled that the clause is unenforceable and must be removed from all tribal compacts. As a result, the panel reversed and vacated Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s arbitration award.

“Citizen Potawatomi Nation is disappointed by the ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit,” Wright said. “The Nation will continue to pursue its lawful remedies in this matter.”