Ho-Chunk lawsuit against State of Nebraska to proceed

Local News

A judge has ruled in favor of proceeding with a lawsuit that challenges the State of Nebraska’s interference of business activity on Native American reservations. 

The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted a raid of two Winnebago tribal companies that manufacture and distribute tobacco products. Both are subsidiaries of Ho Chunk Inc. Ho-Chunk filed suit in April.

The state tried to dismiss the case with oral arguments presented on December 10.

In a statement, Ho-Chunk said that big tobacco companies are trying to coerce state governments to target Native American tribes. 

The State of Nebraska argued because Ho-Chunk Inc isn’t a tribe and sells tobacco products to people outside of the reservation, they have to follow U.S. Regulations regarding escrow payments.

“The state’s illegal regulation threatens the ability of the Winnebago Tribe and tribes across Indian Country to provide for themselves,” said Nicole Ducheneaux, an attorney representing HCI Distribution, Inc. and Rock River Manufacturing, Inc. “The State of Nebraska will be forced to defend its deal with Big Tobacco.”

Ho-Chunk said that the tobacco trade is important to the tribal economy by providing employment and funding for different programs. 

For the year, Ho-Chunk estimates that it lost 80 percent of its tobacco division revenue due to the states attempts to regulate the on-reservation businesses. The company also said that 54 Native-owned businesses across 12 states have been stifled by Nebraska’s interference. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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