Archive for November, 1941

Indian leader says tribes need more economic opportunities

November 21st, 1941

ERICA WERNER Associated Press WASHINGTON – American Indian tribes need more economic development opportunities, including easier access to tax-free bonds for tribal projects, the head of the nation’s largest tribal group said Thursday. Tex Hall, president of the National Congress of American Indians, said the country’s approximately 4.2 million Indians have made progress but still lag other residents in wages and education, and access to housing, technology and health care. “Income average of Indians living on reservations is still less than half of the national average. Indian unemployment is still double the rest of the country,” Hall said in his third annual State of Indian Nations address. “Thus, while improvements have been made, much work is left to be done. “If tribes are to continue to be successful, we must have access to all tools that are also available to other governments.” Among them: the ability to issue tax-exempt bonds to raise funds for economic development projects. Tribes can issue such bonds, but the federal tax code includes a special requirement that the money go for an “essential government function.” Bond money cannot be used to pay for tribal casinos, but the Internal Revenue Service has begun questioning projects including a convention center and a resort, NCAI officials said. The tribes’ solution is legislation to put them on the same footing as states and local governments in issuing bonds. Bills to accomplish that stalled during the last congressional session, and Hall urged Congress to try again this year. “Indian tribes must be able to raise funds like other governments,” he said. Other legislative goals include more regulatory authority over telecommunications, and the ability to prosecute non-Indians for crimes committed on reservations. Hall warned listeners that President Bush’s budget, due Monday, may contain tough cuts for tribes, especially in housing programs. Hall barely mentioned Indian gambling during his speech, but when asked during a question and answer period whether casino money has had any negative consequences for tribes, he said, “Let’s see, I can’t think of any.” After Hall’s speech, Bureau of Indian Affairs head Dave Anderson made his first public remarks since announcing his resignation Monday after just a year on the job. The founder of a casino management company and a barbecue restaurant chain in Minnesota, Anderson had recused himself from tribal recognition and Indian gambling issues while at BIA, to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest. “In the areas that were my greatest strengths, such as economic development, those were the areas that my hands were kind of tied in,” Anderson told reporters. “So I kind of felt that I was able to get more done on the outside than being in the position I was in.”