Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2022

First Page






Source Publication Abbreviation

N.M. L. Rev.


The disparate impact COVID-19 has had on Indian Country
reveals problems centuries in the making from the legacy of
colonialism. One of those problems is state encroachment in
Indian Country, including attempts to assert taxing authority
within Indian Country. The issue of the reaches of state taxing
authority in Indian Country has resulted in law that is both
uncertain and highly complex, chilling both outside investment
and economic development for tribes.
As the United States emerges from COVID-19, to focus only on the
toll exacted on tribes and their peoples ignores the tremendous
opportunities for states to right these historical wrongs. Buoyed by
federal COVID-relief funds, state and local governments are in a
financial position to reframe their tax policies to promote tribal
sovereignty and support economic development in Indian Country.
This article argues for states to make diplomatic, responsible state and local tax policies that will create healthier intergovernmental
relationships and an environment that in turn creates broader
economic growth for tribes and states alike. Through policies
requiring state governments to consult with tribes to make joint
decisions on tax policy and by refraining from exercising taxing
authority in Indian Country, states can move from a zero-sum
game. Instead of competing for precious tax revenue, state and
local governments can partner with tribes to expand the total
amount of available revenue streams. Doing so will not just right
the historical wrongs of colonialism—it could also help prevent
future crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, from having such
a disparate impact on tribes again.