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On Indigenous Tax Consciousness: The Socio-Legal History of the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, 1938-1987



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Zahnd, Maximilien 


This thesis explores the relationship between taxation, Indigenous sovereignty, and settler colonialism. Specifically, it chronicles the socio-legal history of the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, a Gwich’in tribe from the Alaska interior region. The tribe gained national attention when it attempted to tax a school construction project in the 1980s, triggering a fierce but ultimately unsuccessful judicial battle with the state of Alaska. The thesis seeks to answer the following research questions: How does a tribe develop the idea to use taxation, and why does it decide to use it? The thesis thus strives to explore the origins and contours of what I call ‘Indigenous tax consciousness’. Drawing on archival and field research, I argue that a tribe’s tax consciousness consists of a long and delicate process that often takes years to crystallize. It requires a favorable politico-legal climate, good timing, a few key individuals, and some serendipity. Most importantly, however, Indigenous tax consciousness goes hand in hand with a profound desire to seek political, economic, and cultural empowerment.





Bravo, Michael


Alaska Natives, Legal History, Sovereignty, Tax


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge