IRS Auctions Sioux Land

Posted December 7, 2009

This past Thursday the IRS auctioned off a large land parcel owned by the Crow River Sioux to pay off more than $3 million in back payroll taxes, penalties and interest — a sale the tribe says is illegal.

The tribe has failed to win a temporary restraining order last week, so the land has been auctioned. The tribe now has 180 days to purchase the land back, with interest. The tribe continues to fight the sale through court appeals. Mario Gonzalez, the tribe’s lawyer said “this is the only instance that I know of where the IRS has levied on tribally owned land on an Indian reservation.

Many residents of Crow Creek and of other tribes of North America are now holding a spiritual vigil on the land. This “Hemblaca” (Fast and Pray) is to make the statement that “Sioux land is not for sale!” The chief is reportedly young but “very traditional” leader, dedicated to prolonged fasting and prayer despite the bitter cold of north-central South Dakota. The encampment was planned to start as I am writing this: today, December 7 at Noon. The tribe is calling for public support. Supporters can send their solidarity messages via A Wells Fargo account is being set up for donations (information forthcoming).

The land in question was part of the tribe’s original reservation established in an 1868 treaty, and was held by the federal government in a trust for the tribe. But in the era of the Dawes Act was allotted to individual tribal members, who then sold it to non-Indians. The allotment system under the Dawes Act is widely known to have been manipulated to deprive the Native Americans of their lands and resources. The tribe purchased the land back, but the Bureau of Indian Affairs failed to put the land back into trust, which would have afforded legal protection against the seizure.