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Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa of North Dakota

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Judge Georgia Dawson heard arguments June 6 in a dispute over whether a flood control project near Enderlin belongs in state court. She took the case under advisement. The band is fighting construction of the proposed Maple River Dam. Tribal attorney Jerilyn Decoteau said the band has sovereign immunity and the dispute should be settled in federal court. "why is it important to the Turtle Mountain tribe? Because it contains the remains of our ancestors, very simply," she said. The attorney for the Cass County Joint Water Board said the land was given to the tribe to stall the project. The board wants to take 1 1/2 acres through condemnation proceedings. If the tribe is correct, he said, "All an opponent has to do (to stop a project) is sell even a fractional interest in his land to a tribe - any tribe throughout the United States - and that tribe can then claim, 'You can't sue me to take the property.'"

Some business owners on the reservation say a tribal tax on cigarettes could hurt business. The band is considering a tax on cigarettes that could add as much as $1 to the cost of a pack. The goal would be to cut smoking on the reservation, keep cigarettes out of the hands of children and raise money for the tribe. Stuart Medrud, who owns a convenience store in Belcourt, said cigarettes sold on the reservation are exempt from the 44-cent state tax, and many Rolette County and Canadian smokers buy their cigarettes on the reservation. "They think they are going to raise a lot of money with the tax, but what they are going to do is to cut into our sales, he said. The tribal council is expected to vote on the tax by the end of June. "It is going to take a lot of courage for the politicians to act on this, but there is a real need for additional revenue,'' said Logan Davis, the tribe's tobacco control coordinator.

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