Editors Note: On Sept. 20, 2021, the City of Shawnee formally de-annexed the land south of the North Canadian River. The detachment ended the legal dispute between the City of Shawnee and Citizen Potawatomi Nation. On Sept. 21, 2021, Leaders from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and City of Shawnee announced Tuesday the launch of Shawnee Aligned, a new initiative wherein the two governments will seek opportunities to collaborate for the betterment of the Shawnee community. Read more here

The Citizen Potawatomi Nation has filed a civil complaint in Pottawatomie County District Court requesting action on a detachment petition initially filed with the City of Shawnee on Sept. 10, 2014. Citizen Potawatomi Nation requested formal detachment of only tribal land after City officials began claiming those properties were inside the city’s jurisdiction in an attempt to collect sales tax.

“The Citizen Potawatomi Nation is not within the City of Shawnee, but because they have claimed jurisdiction for the purpose of making us their tax collector, we chose to follow their ordinance for a formal detachment,” said Tribal Chairman John Barrett. “The Tribe has tried to resolve these issues without litigation, but the City has failed to comply with the state and local requirements set for detachment.”

The petition for detachment filed by Citizen Potawatomi Nation was denied by the Shawnee City Clerk on Oct. 4, 2014 claiming that the Tribe was not the legal owner of the property because of its status as federal trust land.

A letter on Oct, 6, 2014 from Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn states that tribes are the owners of trust land.

“Indian tribes are the beneficial owners of land held for them in trust by the United States. As such, tribes enjoy full and exclusive possession, use, and enjoyment of trust lands. Further, tribal governments exercise jurisdiction over trust lands, and trust lands are generally exempt from the jurisdiction of local and state governments, except where Congress has specifically authorized such jurisdiction,” Washburn states in the letter. {jb_quoteright}”While this ordinance was aimed at tribes, the ramifications of it will impact taxpayers in this town for decades to come.”{/jb_quoteright}The Citizen Potawatomi Nation also requested in its complaint that the courts grant permanent injunction enjoining the City of Shawnee from submitting future detachment petitions to a vote of the people. The previous City Commission voted to submit all detachment issues to a vote of the people on Aug. 4, 2014. The ordinance, introduced by Commissioner Keith Hall, was narrowly passed along with the assistance of lame-duck City Commissioners, resulting in a special election scheduled for Nov. 4, 2014.

“The previous City Commission passed that ordinance in an attempt to pre-empt the newly elected City Commission after the candidates who opposed the city’s jurisdictional overreach defeated the incumbents who had supported it,” said Barrett. “Furthermore, this ordinance is not in compliance with the statutes set forth by the State of Oklahoma and will become a tremendous burden to the taxpayers of Shawnee. While this ordinance was aimed at tribes, the ramifications of it will impact taxpayers in this town for decades to come.”