Doing Business With Our Neighbor: the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
The tribe's economic development efforts often create opportunities for non-Indians as partners, clients and customers
Scottsdale shares its
eastern border with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (the
"Community"). The Reservation was created by Executive Order on June 14, 1879 by
President Rutherford B. Hayes. Tribal enrollment exceeds 5,700 people and is
comprised of two Indian tribes, the Pima and the Maricopa, who share a common
cultural heritage. Its prime location and undeveloped land ensures that it will
be a potential site for new economic activities in the Valley.
agricultural people, the Community has diversified to include a golf course, a
sand and gravel operation, a solid waste facility and the Scottsdale Pavilions,
a 140-acre shopping mall. This economic development has opened up additional
opportunities for citizens of Scottsdale and the Valley to visit the Community
for the purposes of shopping, working and otherwise engaging in business with
the Community. As with any communities that border each other, close proximity
brings opportunities and challenges. In addition to the traditional
opportunities and challenges that neighbors may anticipate, the Community’s
status as a federally recognized Indian tribe raises new and different
In considering doing
business on an Indian reservation, the following points are helpful to remember.
Tribes are independent entities with inherent powers of self-government. As
such, tribes govern themselves within their reservations and provide those
governmental services necessary to economic development. By example, the
Community provides police and fire protection, health and safety inspections and
enforces zoning regulations. Congress does, however, have the power to regulate
and modify the status of tribes and has permitted the states a role in areas
traditionally left to the tribes. Federal legislation allowing the states to
negotiate gaming compacts with tribes is a prime example of Congressional
legislation in this area.
general rule is that, absent an effective waiver or consent, a tribe may not be
sued in tribal, state or federal court. A department of the tribe or a
tribally-owned business may also be immune from suit. A waiver of immunity is
necessary in order to resolve disputes that arise between the tribe and its
non-Indian partners. Each tribe has its own procedures for waiving its immunity.
Tribes have their own courts, can prosecute criminal misdemeanors by Indians,
and may resolve civil disputes among Indian and non-Indian parties. When a civil
lawsuit does not involve any tribal members and does not affect tribal
self-government, then state courts have jurisdiction. When Indians or Indian
interests are involved and the events occur on trust land, and the plaintiff is
an Indian, the claim must be resolved in tribal court; when the plaintiff is a
non-Indian, the claim may be resolved in either state or tribal court.
on an Indian reservation is held in common, with the exception of allotments.
Title to the land is held by the United States for the benefit of the tribe. The
Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Reservation includes approximately
55,000 acres of which approximately 30,000 acres are held in common. As a result
of the trust relationship of the United States to the tribes, the Secretary of
the Interior must approve any lease of land and any agreement that involves
Dawes Act of 1887, Congress provided for reservation lands to be allotted to
individual Indians. Congress stopped this program and indefinitely extended the
trust period of all allotments still in trust in the Indian Reorganization Act
of 1934. Today, legal title to allotment land is held by the United States for
the benefit of the allottees. Due to the overwhelming inheritance through
intestate succession, the beneficial interest of many 40-acre parcels may be
shared by as many as 100 allottees. This results in practical problems in
developing large-scale leasing and development projects. The Scottsdale
Pavilions is located on allotment land and is leased under two separate lease
agreements to a non-Indian land developer. The leases provide that the
possession of the land will revert and the buildings and improvements will
become the property of the allottees at the end of the lease term. The allottees
receive rents from the developer. The Community acts as the allottees’ agent for
the payment of the rent.
have the authority to levy taxes on sales of goods and services on their
reservations. Taxation is a new phenomenon on most reservations. The tribes’
ability to tax is being limited by the willingness of the United States to
permit states to also tax business activities on Indian reservations. In a 1995
decision by the federal courts, the State of Arizona’s right to collect sales
and rental taxes from businesses at the Pavilions was affirmed.
The Salt River
Pima-Maricopa Indian Community will continue to pursue economic development
opportunities as a means of benefiting its members. Frequently, these
opportunities will permit the participation of non-Indians as partners, clients
and customers. Keeping in mind the unique legal features of doing business on
Indian reservations will facilitate the interaction.