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The North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges recently announced results of a 2020 study estimating tribal member tax payments to the state of North Dakota. Titled “Native American Tax Contributions in North Dakota,” the estimate of 2019 state personal income taxes paid by Native Americans totals more than $49.4 million or $908 for every man, woman and child.

In addition to personal income tax, the study estimates sales and use tax, motor fuels tax, corporate tax and property tax, as well as oil extraction and production taxes. The current statewide Native American population includes 54,400 enrolled members of the Lakota, Dakota, Chippewa, Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa Tribes. About 28,845 live on the reservations, and 25,555 live off of tribal lands.

Per capita income lags far behind the statewide average, and most Native Americans live well below the poverty line. An estimated 80 percent of salaries and wages is consumed by purchases made off the reservations, resulting in generation of both state and local sales taxes.

“North Dakota tribal colleges want to dispel the stereotype that Indians don’t pay taxes,” said Cynthia Lindquist, Ph.D., president of Cankdeska Cikana Community College and chair of the North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges.

“Indians don’t get checks from the federal government each month, and we do not have free education or health care,” Lindquist said. “We’re not all getting rich from oil money or the casinos. In fact, the casinos also have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. The general rule of thumb is that tribes are tax-exempt, and individual Native Americans are not.

“We want people to understand that we, too, are contributors to the state’s economy, and, through this lens, we want North Dakotans to realize that – like all higher education – an investment in our tribal colleges provides a significant return on investment,” she said.

Native Americans enjoy tri-citizenship; they are citizens of the United States, their respective tribal nation and the state of North Dakota. In addition to paying taxes, they vote in national, tribal and statewide elections.

Established in 1994, the North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges is led by the five tribal college presidents. The association provides a structure for collaboration, improved governance and planning toward economic progress for the tribal communities in North Dakota. The colleges, locations and presidents are:

Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Fort Totten, Cynthia Lindquist, Ph.D.

Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College, New Town, Twyla Baker, Ph.D.

Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, Laurel Vermillion, Ph.D.

Turtle Mountain Community College, Belcourt, Donna Brown, D.Ed.

United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck, Leander ‘Russ’ McDonald, Ph.D.

The study was conducted by Al Nygard Consulting, a Bismarck management consulting company. The first study of tax contributions by Indians in North Dakota was conducted in 2013 with a follow-up study in 2016 and again in 2020.

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