Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Interior
During a recent visit to the Swinomish Tribe, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael L. Connor announced the publication of an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Advanced Notice) to comprehensively update the regulations governing trade occurring within Indian country.

Interior Seeks Tribal Input to Modernize Indian Trader Regulations


Despite the transitioning presidential office and administration, the Bureau of Indian Affairs is giving tribes until April 10, 2017, to play a vital role in updating the Indian Trader Regulations for the first time in more than 30 years. “Modernizing the Indian Trader Regulations will help to promote self-determination and economic development for Tribes across the country,” Deputy Secretary Michael Connor at the Interior said in a press release dated December 8. “The regulations governing Indian Traders are long outdated and do not reflect or respect current business practices occurring in Indian country.”

Back in January at his State of Indian Nations Address at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, said that tribes should be able to collect taxes without placing extra burdens on local businesses. “We call on the Department of Interior to amend The Indian Trader regulations … eliminate dual taxation in Indian country … and empower tribes to invest in the infrastructure and services that make economic development possible.

“In addition, tribes must be able to issue tax-exempt bonds. They are an indispensable tool that every other modern government uses to seed private sector growth. Tribal governments must be treated the same as state and local governments on labor issues,” he said.  

RELATED: Progress and Promise in Indian Country: NCAI’s 2016 State of Indian Nations Address

A notice published in the Federal Register on December 9 highlights the problem of dual taxation. Revenues are funneled to state and local government coffers, skipping the tribal communities that need the funds the most. “Dual taxation of traders and activities conducted by traders and purchasers can impede a tribe’s ability to attract investment to Indian lands where such investment and participation are critical to the vitality of tribal economies,” the notice states. “Tribal communities continue to struggle with unmet needs, such as in their schools and housing, as well as economic development, to name a few. Moreover, beyond the operation of their governments, tribes continually pursue funding for infrastructure, roads, dams, irrigation systems and water delivery.”

BIA consultations with tribes about taxation and other issues will begin after Republican president-elect Donald Trump takes office. “We encourage tribes to participate in this rulemaking process to ensure that the path forward is the result of tribal input,” Larry Roberts, the de facto leader of the BIA, said last week.  

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