Letter to the Editor

Joyce Wiese’s dark picture of our neighboring Meskwaki Tribe, their buying of land and placing it in trust thus making it tax exempt, makes it appear as though the rest of us in Tama County are left holding the bag.    This is a gross over-simplification. Tribal members do pay their fair share of federal taxes that come back to the state and our region in community block grants.    The tribe also does not get ‘impact aid’ as the county does from the federal government to offset the loss of property taxes, a benefit that goes to all counties impacted by federal operations or federal lands (national parks, military bases, Indian lands, etc.).    Tama County gets impact aid because of the tribe’s presence (population and acreage) and also from the Otter Creek Marsh/Wetland corridor.    Property taxes keep going up, yes…. doesn’t everything?   

For decades, the tribe has come up on the short-end-of-the-stick in Tama County.    Now things have changed.    They are by far the largest employer in the County, not only in the casino and hotel but also in many tribal administrative positions.    They were never given “gift tax write-offs” like other big businesses we have begged to come in, many of whom didn’t stay (or went bankrupt) after their free tax status expired.    The tribe, unlike many other local businesses, for months continued to pay full salaries and insurance for employees (white, pink, brown, black, etc.) during the long lay-off due to covid out of sheer concern for their employees.       

The Meskwaki now have their own exceptional school. They have other Departments fully in operation: Natural Resources, Tribal Court system, Police Dept., Child Welfare agency, Tribal Governing Council, Museum, Historical Preservation Dept., Language Preservation Services, Center for the Aged, Housing Department, a fine Medical (and dental) Clinic, Entrepeneurial Projects, and a Public Works Department that takes care of their water and sewer facilities as well as maintenance of their roads.      It almost appears there aren’t many County services left that we actually have to provide for them, in contrast to Joyce’s implications. 

Wikipedia says that from 1924 when the Indian Citizenship Act conferred citizenship on all American Indians, indigenous people did not have to apply for citizenship, nor did they have to give up their tribal citizenship to become U.S. citizens.    This legal and political status of dual citizenship remains unchanged today. The Meskwaki and other Native Americans who live in Tama County have consistently exercised their right to vote over the years, been actively engaged in the voting process, supported candidates of their choice, and have had to trust elected officials who weren’t Meskwaki to do the right thing for them.    Why should it be any different if a Meskwaki is elected?   

I have long known Christina Blackcloud.    She has fine educational and employment credentials not only regarding tribal issues but also for improvements in our larger society, including her service in Washington D.C. with long-time former IA Senator Tom Harkin.    She would be a great representative for us.     

Mary McBee

Tama, Iowa