John Steele: Stopping IRS from violating our tribal treaty rights

"As tribal governments, we struggle to provide opportunity for our people, under our reserved rights to self-government. Our rights are human rights that pre-date the United States. Thomas Jefferson said, “All men … are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” On the Good Red Road, we seek good lives, real jobs, health and happiness. To us, liberty means respect for our self-government and Treaty rights.

Yet, once again, the United States is violating our rights. This time it is not the 7th Cavalry. Today it is the Internal Revenue Service that is sent out against us.

The IRS recognizes that when the Federal and state governments fund public schools, affordable housing, health care, and old age assistance, those are essential government functions. Yet, when Indian tribes provide education, housing, health care, and elder care to our people, the IRS wants to tax us under the General Welfare Doctrine because we provide our programs to all tribal citizens and we do not “means test” our people.

Naturally, we serve all of our people, after all we are an Indian nation and we have always done so. When an elderly grandmother was hungry and she had lost her sons, the young hunter provided her buffalo. Today, we refuse to peak into checkbooks, before we feed our elders or provide lunch to our children."

Get the Story:
John Yellowbird Steele: Stop IRS’s Indian Treaty Violations (Indian Country Today 8/6)

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