Opinion

Oliver Semans: Destroying our sovereignty through taxation





Oliver Semans, the executive director of Four Directions, discusses attacks on tribal sovereignty through taxation:
Oh, what dangerous times we live in. In the days of our ancestors, it took the cavalry and then some to change our way of life. But now, because states across the country have lost many attempts to extinguish our sovereignty, they are trying a different tactic—and Big Tobacco and the ambiguous regulations of the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act) are their spear points.

Make no mistake; this is not about cigarette taxes or cigarette sales. It’s about hacking away at our sovereignty until it’s gone, along with all the other things we’ve lost. Indian country is in grave danger. This issue should be presented as a priority in the White House Tribal Summit.

We all know that the courts say our businesses enjoy sovereign immunity both on our reservations—according to the U.S. Supreme Court in Oklahoma Tax Commission v. Citizen Band Potawatomi Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, a 1991 ruling—and off our reservations, as the Supreme Court decided in 1998 in Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma v. Manufacturing Technologies. In the Ameriloan and Suthers cases, the courts ruled that states could not impose their laws on tribes.

The president has supported our sovereignty, saying among other things in a June 26, 2013 executive order that U.S. policy honors our treaties and recognizes “tribes' inherent sovereignty and right to self-government under U.S. law.” What does the United States want, according to President Obama’s order? “The development of prosperous and resilient tribal communities.”

Get the Story:
Oliver J. Semans: Waging War by Taxation on Indian Country (Indian Country Today 11/13)