Ho-Chunk Incorporated and two affiliated entities have filed a federal lawsuit against the State of Nebraska, alleging that the state is attempting to unlawfully regulate tribal tobacco.
The lawsuit claims action by Nebraska is an intrusion into the sovereignty of the Winnebago Tribe.
Federal law enforcement agency personnel showed up at three of Ho-Chunk’s Winnebago facilities in late January to investigate tobacco operations.
Officers from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms entered Ho-Chunk’s corporate offices and their Rock River Manufacturing and H-C-I distribution sites.
The federal agents reportedly seized financial records and computers.
The entities are now jointly suing Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson and Tax Commissioner Tony Fulton.
Frank White, Chairman of the Winnebago Tribe, says in a statement that “This attack has damaged our Tribal economy and in turn threatens our sovereignty, self-determination and self-governance.”
White’s statement says the Winnebago Tribe collects its own tobacco taxes that directly fund programs including health, education and infrastructure.
The taxes were $122,658 in 2017.
White says the taxes have helped 40 families purchase new homes through a down payment assistance program in recent years.
The Nebraska attorney general’s office has not commented on the lawsuit.