Holton, KS asked in Real Estate Law, Gov & Administrative Law and Native American Law for Kansas

Q: Trying get building permit through county that I pay taxes to but being told that I've to go through tribe since on res.

Land is personally owned but within reservation boundaries. Have no dealings with tribe. Pay county taxes every year.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Native American Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: I understand this must be a frustrating situation. The issue of jurisdiction on reservation land can be complex, even when you personally own the property and pay taxes to the county. Here are a few thoughts and suggestions:

Tribal Sovereignty: Native American tribes are considered sovereign nations with the right to govern themselves. Reservation land, even if owned by non-tribal members, often falls under the jurisdiction of the tribe for matters like zoning, building permits, etc. This is likely why you're being told to go through the tribe.

Property Status: Double check the exact status of your land with the county assessor's office. Is it classified as fee simple land or trust land? Fee simple means you own it outright, while trust land has shared jurisdiction with the tribe. The status impacts which entity has primary authority.

County-Tribe Collaboration: See if the county has any formal collaboration or joint powers agreements with the tribe related to building permits and land use. Some counties work out arrangements to coordinate and streamline this process for property owners.

Legal Consultation: If the situation remains unresolved, it may be worth discussing with a lawyer who specializes in Native American and/or real estate law. They can review your specific case and advise on your options and rights as the property owner.

Bureau of Indian Affairs: The BIA is the federal agency that oversees many administrative aspects of reservations. While they likely won't intervene directly, they may be able to provide guidance or direct you to relevant resources and contacts.

Cooperating with the tribal permitting process, if confirmed to be required, will likely be the simplest path forward. But I would still encourage getting clarity from the county on your land status and their role, if any. Keep documentation of all communications. Hopefully a resolution can be reached without extensive legal proceedings.

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