Biden promises Tribal leaders new executive orders to speed on-reservation economic development

President Joe Biden is promising Tribal leaders and Native American entrepreneurs two new executive orders next month that aim to speed on-reservation economic development and to recognize Tribes’ civil regulatory jurisdiction over their own economies.

The first executive order instructs the Internal Revenue Service to consider unincorporated Indians and their business interests “disregarded entities” for tax purposes, the same status as a single-member limited liability company.

The second executive order instructs all federal agencies — including the Drug Enforcement Agency — to defer to Tribal governments’ jurisdiction on economic and civil regulatory matters.  The order is expected to explicitly instruct the DEA to defer to Tribal regulatory regimes on the recreational, commercial, and industrial use of cannabis.

Both executive orders are expected to have a catalytic impact in tribal communities.

Critics say that the Biden administration is offering Tribes the two executive orders to placate their demands for an Indian Bank Regulatory Act, which would federally recognize Tribal sovereignty and regulatory powers in banking and international trade, while formally including Tribal governments in negotiations of future iterations of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Tribal entrepreneurs and Native American business interests are hampered by colonial legal frameworks, ongoing jurisdictional conflicts, and a North American banking system that disrespects Tribal sovereignty.

Sources tell The Chronicle that former Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter has drafted the text of the executive orders and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has endorsed the tribal development strategies.

Tribal leaders expect Biden to sign the orders next month.

Some tribal leaders, like Navajo President Jonathan Nez, want Biden to go further than the two executive orders.  Biden is being encouraged to create a cabinet-level “Office of Indian Trade” to negotiate future trade agreements between the United States and various Tribal governments.

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