A Washington city mayor is in Indian politics up to his head after making the comment that the reason his city is facing a budget shortfall and unable to fight crime is because Yakama Nation tribal members don't pay taxes. This write up details the comments and the outrage expressed by both Indians and non-Indians alike at the mayor's ignorance and blatant bigotry.
First, let's dispel the myth - Indians do pay taxes. Tribal enrollment cards and CDIBs don't automatically make you immune to federal or state income tax, FICA and all the other ways Uncle Sam figures out to nickle and dime you. An Indian nickel is still a nickel and Uncle Sam wants it all the same.
Now, to look at where the myth originates from. It is true that Indian people living on federal trust properties (in other words, tha rez) are usually exempt from paying property tax. It is also true that Indian people may not be required to pay local sales tax when they are on established reservations. Neither of these is true in every circumstance, but they are true enough to create the illusion that Indians don't pay taxes. So let's talk about why these two exemptions exist.
First, in case you missed the first portion of the property tax statement, it said that Indians living on federal trust property usually wouldn't pay a property tax. You know why?? Because they don't own that land, the federal government does! The federal government retains ownership of the land and holds it in trust for the individual and their heirs, but even though the people living on that land may change over time, the ownership of the property doesn't. It always has been and always will be owned by the federal government. Unless at some point in the future the government decides to terminate its trust responsibility and sell the property, to an Indian individual, a non-Indian individual, an Indian-owned business or a non-Indian-owned business, at which point whoever acquires the land - regardless of Indian status - will have to pay property taxes. So the Indians don't get away with not paying property taxes, the federal government does. You want to try and grab a nickel from Uncle Sam, you're pretty much gonna have to pry it from his cold, dead fingers...have a blast.
The second exemption was created because the monies collected from local sales tax are used to maintain local services such as roads and law enforcement. Well, Indian nations are responsible for providing these services on the reservation, not the local governments, so it wouldn't be fair to force Indians - or any people - to pay for a service with their tax money that would not be benefiting them in any way and that they would have to pay for a second time with other monies. So tribal nations, like the Yakama and hundreds of other nations within the United States, are responsible for maintaining their own police force, their own road maintenance crews and all the same services that would be provided by any other city or local government.
Just like it is not the City of Toppenish's responsibility to police or fund the policing of the Yakama Nation, it is not the responsibility of the Yakama Nation or its members to police or fund the policing of the City of Toppenish. To create a budget shortfall for your city and then try and blame someone else just shows very poor management. The mayor and city council knew from day one that they wouldn't receive sales tax income generated on reservation property because they are not responsible for providing services on the reservation. If the city is facing the problem of a budget shortfall then they need to do what every other government in this country does, tribal or non-tribal...hire someone who knows how to manage money.
Ultimately, it has nothing to do with budget shortfalls or local sales taxes, it has to do with institutional racism and flat out bigotry. A group of non-Indian people who have no regard whatsoever for the longstanding legal agreements between tribal nations and the usurpers, decide that they have no more reason to honor those legal agreements because doing so is not in their best financial interests. Well guess what, signing those agreements wasn't in our best financial interests as tribal citizens either, but since we've already paid up our end of the bargain you can bet your ass we're gonna expect you to pay up yours.
Besides, why do you want our money anyway?? You know that any money you have Uncle Sam will find a way to steal away from you in the end. And if you don't know, just ask an Indian...they can tell you the story all-too-well.