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Interior Department Will Consult Tribes On Business Regulations In Indian Country

Tami Heilemann
U.S. Department of the Interior
File photo of Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael L. Connor

The U.S. Department of the Interior will consult with tribes this winter on how best to modernize laws that regulate business in Indian Country. Interior made the announcement on the Swinomish reservation in Western Washington Thursday.

Swinomish tribal Chairman Brian Cladoosby said current laws that give the federal government broad authority over business and trade on Indian lands hinder economic development.

“Can you imagine what would happen if Seattle went over to Spokane to implement a tax to pay for their roads and infrastructure?” he said.

Cladoosby said that’s exactly what’s happening in Indian country where local business and sovereign governments are being taxed at the state and federal level. It’s something he hopes can change.

Cladoosby, who also serves as the President of the National Congress of American Indians, said he doesn’t agree with a requirement that businesses on reservations must be licensed. He said he is optimistic the incoming Trump administration will support changes to further tribal sovereignty.

“It’s a conservative value,” he said. “This is limited government, so I would hope that they would be able to see that this is limiting the federal government’s role in Indian country, so we would hope that they would embrace that concept.”

The Indian Trader statutes were last updated in 1981. The Department of the Interior will take comment on proposed revisions through next April. In a press release, Interior also said they will seek tribal expertise and guidance as changes to the federal regulations go forward.