The Osage Nation has asked the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver to overturn a federal judge’s ruling that the Osage reservation was disestablished by Congress in 1907 when Oklahoma became a state.
“The Osage reservation is not something to fear, but is, instead, the most potent economic generator of jobs and economic opportunity in northeast Oklahoma,” said Osage Nation Principal Chief Jim Gray. “We intend to continue to fight for the benefit of the Osage people and all of our neighbors on our reservation.”
The Nation asked the appeals court to take the case July 23. U.S. District Judge James Payne issued his 27-page decision on the reservation status of Osage County on Jan. 23. The Nation filed a "motion for reconsideration" on Feb. 6, but Payne let stand his “lousy decision,” as Gray called it.
The eight-year-old case—Osage Nation v. Oklahoma Tax Commission—involves Osage tribal members who live and work on the reservation. Unless reversed, the ruling of the district court would permit the continued collection of personal income taxes by the state of Oklahoma from all Osages who do not live and work on trust land or restricted allotments.
The Osage Nation has argued that since Congress did not disestablish the Osage Reservation in the Osage Act of 1906, the collection of those taxes violates federal law. If successful, all of Osage County would be considered Indian Country, and those tribal members who live and earn their income on the reservation would not be required to pay state taxes on that income.