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Okalmoha tribes report increases in tag sales 7-07

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Several Oklahoma-based Indian tribes reported
sharp increases in the number of tribal tags issued to members in
recent years.

Oklahoma is the only state with Indian tribes that issue car tags for
its citizens. The practice began when the Stroud-based Sac & Fox
Nation won a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case against the Oklahoma Tax
Commission, claiming the state did not have a right to tax tribal
members through car tag sales.

The Pawhuska-based Osage Nation has issued about 10,000 - a sharp
rise from 4,000 tags sold five years ago, said Osage tax commissioner
Mary Mashunkashey.

Annual state tag fees range from $21 to $91, depending on the number
of years the vehicle has been titled in Oklahoma.

But buying a tribal tag instead of a state tag does not ensure that a
car owner will save money, said Mashunkashey, who also is chairman of
the National Inter-tribal Tax Alliance.

“Sometimes the state has better prices because they lowered their
prices a few years ago,” she said.

Only tribal members are eligible to purchase tribal vehicle tags.

The majority of revenue generated from tribal tag sales goes toward
tribal budgets, although one tribe, the Cherokee Nation, allocates
some of its tag revenue to outside parties.

The Cherokees have sold 253,832 tags since 2001 and average about
40,000 tags a year, said Sharon Swepston, Cherokee Nation tax
administrator. As the only Oklahoma tribe with a state tag compact,
the tribe generated slightly more than $7 million in tag revenues in
2006, with more than $2 million going to local school districts, said
tribal Councilor Bill John Baker.

At the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, more than 16,600 tribal car owners
opted for the telltale red car tag in 2006. Creek car tag revenues
for 2006 were about $1.5 million, quarterly tribal reports show.

Dana Johnson, Creek Nation tax administrator, said there are an
average of 17,000 active tribal tags on the road.

For the tribe that began the tribal tag movement, the symbolism is important.

“We knew we (tribes) had taxation rights as sovereign nations,”
said Sac & Fox chief Kay Rhoads. “Our lands are exempt from state
taxes, so our citizens did not deserve taxation through state car tag
sales.

“We proved we are a sovereign nation.”

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Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com
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