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Law School Case Brief

Mustang Prod. Co. v. Harrison - 94 F.3d 1382 (10th Cir. 1996)

Rule:

Disestablishment of an Indian reservation is not dispositive of the question of tribal jurisdiction. In order to determine whether a tribe has jurisdiction a court must instead look to whether the land in question is Indian country. The Indian country classification is the benchmark for approaching the allocation of federal, tribal and state authority with respect to Indians and Indian lands.

Facts:

Plaintiffs, nineteen oil and gas companies and one individual, (collectively Mustang Production Company) held oil and gas leases on allotted Indian lands. Mustang brought an action against defendants, members of of the Business Committee and the Tax Commission of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma (Tribes) challenging the Tribes' authority to tax oil and gas production on allotted lands held in trust for their members. The tribe members filed a motion for summary judgment and it was granted by the Cheyenne-Arapaho District Court (Tribal Court), which stayed the action pending exhaustion of tribal remedies. The Tribal Supreme Court and the federal district court upheld the tax. Mustang lease holders sought further appellate review.

Issue:

Does the Indian tribe possess the power and authority to impose tax on oil and gas production on the oil and gas lease holders?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment of members of the tribal government's business and tax committees. The members of the Indian tribe had authority to tax oil and gas production on the allotted lands because their sovereign authority included the inherent power to tax non-Indians who conducted business in allotted lands.

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