The Philosophy of Colonization Underlying Taxation Imposed Upon Tribal Nations within the United States

30 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2008

Date Written: 2007


Tribal Nations are inherently sovereign by internal definition as well as by classic European political science theory. Voluntary wealth distribution was the basis for the functioning of tribal government rather than externally imposed demands for pro rata shares of individual tribal member income. Through treaty-making with Tribal Nations, the United States expanded and asserted its ability to govern the influx of European immigrants and captive Africans by recognizing tribal territorial boundaries and seeking peaceful relations. Within the United States Constitution, Tribal Nations are mentioned in terms of not being taxed and as engaged with Congress in terms of commerce. Despite this history, U.S. relations shifted on one of military dominance over Tribal Nations skewing the sovereign-to-sovereign relationship set forth in treaty agreements.

Through U.S. federal legislation and U.S. Supreme Court judicial activism, tribal members were relegated to ward-guardian relations in terms of tribal lands and resources. This legal fiction paved the way for the U.S. government to impose a colonial mentality of stripping of tribal lands and resources and commenced the generational poverty now experienced. U.S. federal laws provided for state taxation of 1) tribal lands following a period of restriction and 2) of oil and gas produced from Indian lands. The trend of state interference has continued with 1) race-based justifications on retail transactions in Indian Country and 2) by requiring tribal-state compacts under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act where states may exact fees from the Tribes. The U.S. Supreme Court has also sought to curtail tribal taxation by refusing to recognize tribal taxes within tribal territorial boundaries based on the ownership of the land containing the taxable event. These injustices are the result of the continued colonization philosophy that must be replaced with recognition of tribal sovereignty to enable economic development.

Keywords: Tribal Nations, Taxation, Sovereignty, Economics, Colonization

Suggested Citation

EagleWoman, Angelique, The Philosophy of Colonization Underlying Taxation Imposed Upon Tribal Nations within the United States (2007). Tulsa Law Review, Vol. 43, No. 1, 2007, Available at SSRN:

Angelique EagleWoman (Contact Author)

Mitchell Hamline School of Law ( email )

875 Summit Ave
St. Paul, MN 55105-3076
United States

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