Supervisors apologize to Choctaws
The Board of Supervisors apologized to Choctaw Tribal Chief Cyrus Ben on Monday over comments they made about taking land off the tax rolls and putting it into trust.
The concern was over 122.29 acres of land the Tribe wants to put into trust.
Indigenous tribes can petition the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to have land put into trust status and exempt from county taxation.
The Tribe applied to enter the 122.29 acres that generate less than $800 a year in taxes into trust, but the county submitted a formal comment to the BIA in August objecting to the action.
“While Neshoba County is aware that the taxes are small for 122.29 acres of land that is being considered for trust status, the previous and continued placement of land into trust for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians continues to erode the tax base of Neshoba County with no recompense available for thousands of acres that have been placed into trust in smaller amounts like these portions,” the county’s response said.
Chief Ben appeared at the meeting with a delegation of Tribal Council members to take issue with that assessment by the county and pointed out the definition of recompense and what the Tribe contributes to the local economy.
“To make amends for someone for the loss or harm or suffer or compensate,” Ben said before telling supervisors the history of the tribe and their successes.
He said the land trust process was “authorized by Congress as a means of bolstering Tribal sovereignty and self-determination and for other benefits.”
Ben pointed out the economic impact that the Tribe has on Neshoba County, explaining it’s the largest employer with 4,800 employees spread over 14 business ventures.
He was disheartened by the comments from the county saying adding land to the trust takes away from the tax base but “he hopes to continue a positive relationship with supervisors and improving the local economy so that vital interests of local residents are considered, and cooperative efforts lead to a beneficial outcome.”
“This is the first step in advancing positive, constructive, and continued dialogue to dispel misconceptions and to enhance our shared interests,” Ben said.
District 5 Supervisor Obbie Riley and County Administrator Jeff Mayo both apologized to Ben.
Mayo admitted it was his mistake and he revised the original letter and sent it back to the BIA.
Ben shook hands with the supervisors as he left the meeting and they agreed to work together more.