December 07, 2009

Crow Creek sit-in vs. IRS

Tribe to protest land auction with tipi sit-in

By Jeff MartinCrow Creek Sioux tribal members and supporters Monday vowed to set up tipis on land auctioned by the Internal Revenue Service, and the tribe's chairman promised to stay at the site despite bitterly cold temperatures and go without food.

Tribal Chairman Brandon Sazue said he intends to fast and pray on the land as part of a ritual known as Hemblaca.

"It's going to last for however long I go until I drop," Sazue said Monday in a telephone interview from the site, which is north of Fort Thompson. "The people come first. I'll do whatever it takes for my people."

Tribal leaders question whether the IRS has the authority to auction their land. They view the sale as the latest in a long series of abuses suffered at the hands of the federal government. They also say it will make conditions worse on what already is one of the nation's poorest Indian reservations.
What it's all about:Last week, about 7,100 acres of land on the Crow Creek Indian reservation--an area about half the size of the New York City borough of Manhattan--was auctioned by the IRS. The auction was an unusual move, according to legal experts who track such cases.

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe had gone to court to try to stop the auction, which was held to settle overdue employment taxes the IRS claims are owed by the tribe. U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange allowed the auction to proceed last week, but agreed to allow both sides to make their arguments in court. A trial will be March 29-30, Lange ruled. An undisclosed person had the winning bid of $2.6 million for the land, but it won't change hands until sometime after the trial.
Comment:  Normally I wouldn't report on a story like this, since I don't consider the case part of the popular culture. But the idea of conducting a public protest--a sit-in and a fast--makes it interesting and relevant.

Selling the Crow Creek land sounds bad--a blatant violation of tribal sovereignty--but I'm not sure the auction violated any laws or treaties. I don't think sit-ins or fasts will move the IRS, but perhaps they'll move the Obama administration to intervene.

In Bitchin' and Moanin', someone wrote: "All the bitchin' and moanin' in the world doesn't change a damn thing." I'd say that's demonstrably false, but we'll see whether it works this time.

No comments: