BLOOMFIELD — Gov. Dave Heineman has indicated he will support efforts to appeal action taken by the Ponca tribe to have The White Eagle Express in Bloomfield exempt from all taxes imposed by the federal government or any state or local government.
Last month, the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska filed the necessary paperwork with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Department of the Interior to have the convenience store and gas station exempt.
“This matter is primarily one centering upon local land use; therefore, I support any appeal that may be initiated by the City of Bloomfield, Nebraska, or by other relevant local authorities, regarding the use of property proposed for trust status for the provision of governmental services to these trust properties,” the governor wrote in a Nov. 1 letter.
The letter was sent to Tim LaPointe, regional director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Aberdeen, S.D.
The question of removing land from local and state taxing authorities became possible because of a law passed 23 years ago by Congress.
The law was initiated by then-U.S. Sens. J.J. Exon and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and passed on Oct. 31, 1990. It allowed the Ponca Tribe to have up to 1,500 acres of land in Knox or Boyd counties not subject to taxation.
Unlike many tribes such as the Omaha and Winnebago nations, the Ponca Tribe did not receive any federal reservation land.
Bloomfield Mayor Phil Schroeder said last month that the city was considering whether to appeal the action.
Schroeder said that, according to the letter he received, the Knox County Board of Supervisors and the governor also had the authority to appeal the action taken by the tribe.
Based upon the letter Heineman wrote, the governor’s office will not be initiating an appeal but would support efforts by Bloomfield or Knox County to do so.
Schroeder could not be reached for comment on Monday morning.
According to the act, lineage in the Ponca Tribe must be established to have land removed from taxation.
The Ponca Tribe’s history on its website states the Ponca are believed to have been part of the Omaha Tribe, having separated by the time Lewis & Clark came upon them in 1804. At that time, they were situated along Ponca Creek, in Knox County, near present-day Verdel.
The tribe’s size in 1780 was estimated at 800. Today, the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska alone numbers close to 3,500, according to the tribe.