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State Tax Policy Challenges Sovereign Rights of Indians

Article excerpt

Indian leaders carried multi-colored tribal flags while the unrelenting beat of a ceremonial drum cried out for recognition at the second annual Sovreignty Symposium luncheon on Thursday.

The symposium, established last year, provides a forum for leaders of state, federal and tribal judicial systems to discuss native American issues. There are 39 federally recognized native American Indian tribes in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma's Indian tribes consider the state's persistent efforts to enforce laws and apply taxes to tribal governments an attempt to deny them respect and sovereign rights, said Bob Rabon, attorney at Kile, Rabon & Wolfe, a law firm in Hugo.

Regarding taxation, a new policy toward Indians and Indian tribes is the only way to end the ongoing battle between Indians and the Oklahoma Tax Commission, he said.

By asking the courts to allow Oklahoma to play by different rules than the other 49 states, Oklahoma is sending a clear message that it would have tribes reduced to mere social clubs or mascots who "pow wow" folks to promote state tourism, he said.

What is not recognized are the millions of dollars infused into the state annually by tribes in federal funds and economic development, he said. Choctow and Chickaway nationals have brought more than a billion dollars into the state and created more than 1,500 well-paid jobs.

"This would not have been possible but for federal recognition of their sovereign status," he said.

Oklahoma tribes have vowed forever to resist the state's efforts to tax and regulate them, he said. …