Dual Taxation: One of the Biggest Impediments to Economic Development in Indian Country

“It takes the feds three to five years to build one mile of Indian Reservation Road (IRR). Under their formula, however, it would take us 500 years to finish our roads. So they’re not really helping, which means that we’re using our resources to fix these problems.” —MHA Nation Chairman Mark Fox (Getty Images)

Throughout his leadership, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara (MHA) Nation Chairman Mark N. Fox has been vocal about the detriment of dual taxation on Tribal Nations. 

“Dual taxation I think is, if not the biggest, certainly one of the biggest impediments to economic development in Indian Country,” Chairman Fox said during the Native Business Virtual Summit live broadcast in November 2020. 

READ MORE: Inside the Groundbreaking Native Business Virtual Summit Live Broadcast 

Specifically, oil and gas tax revenue from oil produced on the MHA Nation’s Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in western North Dakota is shared between the state and the Tribe. 

That revenue that goes to the state needs to come back to the community to maintain the infrastructure so that the MHA Nation can continue creating and doing the work that the state and residents are benefiting from. 

The MHA Nation already reinvests its funds in the business and as good stewards of the land and infrastructure. More money would empower the Tribe to cover increasingly high costs of road maintenance. For perspective, it takes approximately $3 million to $3.5 million to pave only one mile of road.

READ MORE: The Road to Nowhere: Inadequate Transportation Hinders Tribal Economic Development 

“When oil and gas came in, you know, we weren’t ready for it. The federal government wasn’t ready; the state wasn’t even ready. But there was one entity that was ready for development — that was the oil and gas industry,” Chairman Fox said during the Summit. 

“They came in; they moved very fast. …All the roads were built in the 1950s and 1960s. All the paved roads we have ever built had to withstand the pressures of oil and gas, with mega tons of trucks going on, and so immediately all our roads got crushed, literally crushed asphalt.”

The anecdote to the situation? Stop dual taxation and return all oil and gas tax revenue from oil produced on Tribal lands to the Tribe. “It takes the feds three to five years to build one mile of Indian Reservation Road (IRR). Under their formula, however, it would take us 500 years to finish our roads. So they’re not really helping, which means that we’re using our resources to fix these problems,” Chairman Fox said. 

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