A Speech By Leaford Bearskin
Our Indian world is fraught with misunderstanding, and misinformation. Many People believe that Indians are wards of the government and receive a check from our Federal Government every month. Many believe that Indians do not have to pay taxes. Many believe that Indians are subject to only their own laws and federal laws. Many believe that Indians do not contribute to federal, state and local communities. Many believe that we do not contribute to education, highways, and public projects.
All these popular beliefs are false in every sense of the word. Indians pay individual taxes that all other citizens are required to pay. Indian tribes, as organizations, are exempt from some taxes just as are state governments, public schools, and public programs.
In 1990 a study was conducted to measure the impact of the Indian presence in the State of Oklahoma. This study shows a vastly different picture of Indian’s contribution to our state. Oklahoma was selected because it has the most Indian tribes (39) and the most Indians of any state in the union (215,519).
Time and space will not allow a full explanation of the figures shown but they reflect a noteworthy contribution.
In 1990 the State of Oklahoma had a gross state product of 50 billion dollars. The Indian presence in Oklahoma contributed $3,534,270,000 (14.4%) of that amount. Indians provided 150,615 jobs in the state. This computes to 12.18% of the state employment rate.
The sources for the listed contributions come from tribal governments, tribally owned businesses, businesses owned by tribal members, federal government spending, and tourism generated income based on pow-wow’s, customs, and traditional events scheduled by Indians.
All states with Indian populations enjoy similar contributions.
Yes, we contribute to our states, we pay income taxes, we give much more than we get, and we take great pride in what we do and how we do it.
Leaford Bearskin, Chief
Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma