OMAHA, Nebraska — A federal appeals court has upheld a judge's ruling that lets the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska collect a liquor tax on business owners in the northeast Nebraska city of Pender.
In a decision released last week, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf. He said in February that Pender is inside the Omaha Reservation and thus is subject to the tribe's liquor regulations.
Those regulations require licenses for businesses that sell alcohol and a 10 percent tax on alcohol purchases. A group of Pender retailers sued in federal court in 2007, arguing that they weren't subject to the tribe's regulations because the land upon which their businesses sat was not part of the reservation.
In the 1860s, part of the Omaha Tribe's northern land was ceded to the Winnebago Tribe, and over time, some of the remaining Omaha land came to be owned by non-Native Americans, resulting in a "checkerboard" pattern of land ownership that has caused confusion about tribal lines.
The part that was opened for sale to white settlers included what became the village of Pender.
In his ruling earlier this year, Kopf dismissed various points raised by the plaintiffs and cited a previous case in his conclusion.
"Once a block of land is set aside for an Indian Reservation and no matter what happens to the title of individual plots within the area, the entire block retains its reservation status until Congress explicitly indicates otherwise," he said.
The plaintiffs failed to show that Congress had done so with the property in what became Pender, Kopf said.