Gavin Clarkson, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Economic Development at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, speaks at the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation Energy Symposium in Mandaree, North Dakota, on July 25, 2017. Photo: US Indian Affairs

Trump hire at Bureau of Indian Affairs makes big promise on tribal taxation

A senior Bureau of Indian Affairs official who was hired by the Trump administration to work on energy, economic development and related issues is making a seemingly big promise to tribes.

According to The Bismarck Tribune, Gavin Clarkson said tribes should be recognized as the sole taxing authority on their reservations. He made his remarks after a leader of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation complained about dual systems of taxation imposed on his people's energy resources.

“Together, we’re going to prove that it is in everybody’s best interest for taxes collected at MHA to stay at MHA and be collected by MHA and by nobody else,” Clarkson, whose title at the BIA is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Economic Development, said to applause at the tribe's energy symposium on Tuesday, The Tribune reported.

Clarkson, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, joined the new administration in June. One of the major items on his plate is an update to the so-called Indian Trader Regulations.

Tribes believe the the BIA can use the regulations to address dual systems of taxation on their lands. Millions of dollars -- and in the case of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, billions of dollars -- currently flows to states and local governments, without much benefit to tribal communities.

“North Dakota will be better off if you can work and do all the projects you want to do,” Clarkson said, The Tribune reported. “You will make this a booming engine for the North Dakota economy.”

But the initiative is facing resistance from a key member of Congress. Just this month, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the chairman of House Committee on Natural Resources, warned Clarkson's boss at the Department of the Interior not to use the Indian Trader Regulations to pre-empt dual taxation.

Jim Cason, the Associate Deputy Secretary at Interior, confirmed Clarkson is continuing to work on the project. But he did not say whether he would defend, support or otherwise advocate for a rule that addresses dual taxation.

"At this point in time, I don't know what's going to go in it, but I do know it's something we'll have to tread very carefully on and have a lot of consultation with the various parties," Cason said during the June 13 hearing.

Read More on the Story:
Federal official works to promote 'robust' tribal economies (The Bismarck Tribune 7/25)

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