Center for World Indigenous Studies
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Nations’ Independence – Taxation

Published: September 19, 2014, Author: Rÿser Rudolph C.

Commentators and essayists throughout generations have often made the observation that( (I paraphrase here): States’ governments do not give up their power easily and the power they are least willing to give up is taxation.” The “No Vote” opposing Scotland’s independence yesterday confirms that when the leaders of Britain’s political parties joined in a common front promising to “devolve powers” including the powers of taxation to the Scottish Parliament a “No Vote” would be pretty much guaranteed. Had this gambit not been played, the “Yes Vote” would likely have won out. It seems many Scots were convinced by the British Promise of Devolution they saw no need to vote for independence. Now the “solid front” of David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg is shredding only after the vote results came in. And now the Scots are demanding that the British Parliament and its leaders live up to their promise. It appears the “cooperative spirit” in Britain is dissolved as the parties oppose powers to Scotland “devolved.”

Britain demands the right to tax and spend revenues from Scottish labor, businesses and wealth while spending that same tax revenue for British priorities. The Scots have objected to that arrangement for more than 300 years and the promise given return powers to Scotland this time seems to be melting away as it has on a number of earlier occasions (Winston Churchill tried to “devolve” powers to Scotland in his day … the British Parliament wouldn’t support that move then). Scotland appears to have been duped and those “No” voters that hoped for Britain to live up to its promise are very likely to be soured by the lie they were told.

In the United States Indigenous America suffers from the same taxation policies: Indians, Hawaiians and Alaskan Native peoples are taxed on their labor, their businesses, their purchases and on a great deal of their land.  Indeed, the Center for World Indigenous Studies undertook a cursory study nearly two years ago and determined that of the revenues granted and contracted to native peoples under treaties and other agreements most of those funds nearly equaled the amount native people pay the United States and state governments in taxes. In other words, the United States is taxing native people for the promises made under treaties. Indigenous people sin the United States are paying for the commitments made to them under treaties. Even then the revenue and service support to native peoples generally keeps them in poverty and prevents indigenous governments from raising their own taxes to support their people’s needs. Self-government was promised to Indian governments and soon to the Hawaiian people under compacts of self-governance in the late 1980s. Those compacts are a promise the US government has still not fulfilled. Indeed, with its taxation policies, the US government is starving Indian governments of revenues they should rightfully receive from their own people.

Most indigenous governments in the United States are under funded by 40% to 60%. That means indigenous peoples in the United States pay the taxes, but they don’t receive the support of their governments or the United States for such minor services as quality health (Indian Health Service is a disaster), land management (the Bureau of Indian Affairs is a disaster), quality of education (the Bureau of Indian Affairs Education is a disaster) or food programs simply make most native peoples ill from diabetes, heart disease, cancers, arthritis and more.

The US Congress yesterday adopted a law that essentially says that the US Internal Revenue Service will no longer tax funds to support indigenous funerals, cultural practices like giveaways and other traditional practices involving the transfer currency.  That decision forced on the US Congress by Indian governments does not really deal with the larger problem: Taxing native peoples in the hundreds of millions. The US Congress has not and will not agree to stop taxing indigenous peoples on their labor, businesses, lands and resource extractions at a rate of hundreds of millions of dollars each years. The US gets good PR for its “promise” not to tax culture, but that only hides their greater demand for revenues from indigenous peoples.

It seems that Britain and the United States have essentially the same policies: tax the native peoples and take the revenues and run. Britain and the US leaders pronounced Scottish Independence an economic and political disaster that would cause world recession!  What these governments and others like them do not seem to understand (or maybe they do), they are causing peoples like the Scots–Fourth World nations–constant economic and political disasters. National independence movements will not stop with promises that will be unfulfilled.

The state possesses coercive power to tax and it uses that power to maintain indigenous peoples’ subordination to state power. The Scots began to change the political equation, and I suspect like the Catalans, Basque, Haudenosaunee, Cree and other nations various forms of greater independence will look sweeter.


Chief George Manuel Memorial Indigenous Library

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