Native American women shatter myths about money

·4 min read

There’s a common myth among non-Natives across the US and Canada that says Indigenous people don’t pay taxes. Whether it’s sales tax, federal income tax or even the cheerily nicknamed “death” tax, apparently some people are under the impression that Natives are exempt from all of it.

Not so. In fact, as an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) and Cherokee tribes, I can assure you that Uncle Sam has my bank account number living rent-free in his head. And I’m on the hook for all of it — federal, state, sales, property — you name it.

While the details of this assumption can get complicated (i.e., Natives living on reservations don’t pay US state income tax, while Natives living outside of the reservation do), the underlying implication of this myth is that Natives aren’t paying their “fair share,” which, given our history, is pretty insulting in addition to being inaccurate.

To add more insult to injury, Native women in the United States could argue that they’re the ones who aren’t getting their fair share. Data shows they earn about 60 cents for every dollar a non-Hispanic white male earns each year. That’s even less than the overall gender pay gap, which sits at 82 cents on the dollar.

In fact, Sept. 8, 2021 has been designated Native American Women’s Equal Pay Day because today represents the number of additional days into 2021 it has taken a Native woman in the US to earn what took a non-Hispanic white man to earn in 2020 alone.

Credit: <a href="https://www.instagram.com/alymcknight/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Aly McKnight" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Aly McKnight</a> (Shoshone-Bannock)
Credit: Aly McKnight (Shoshone-Bannock)

That’s right — more than a full year and eight months. As Senator of the U.S. Department of the Interior Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna) wrote as a congresswoman, “It is a statistic that impacts so many other issues including access to health care, education, job training and child care.”

After all, less money in the bank means less money for basic necessities, let alone the extras.

This also isn’t an issue unique to Native women. BIPOC female communities, including Black and Latinx, are no strangers to wage gaps of their own, with many experts offering tips on how to negotiate salaries.

And sadly, despite more Native women seeking higher education, the widest gaps can been seen at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

“Native women typically have to earn a master’s degree before they are paid more than white, non-Hispanic men with just an Associate’s degree are paid ($56,000 and $53,842, respectively),” the organization reports.

Over the course of an income-taxed career, that adds up.

Showing receipts

Indigenous women have recently taken to TikTok to share their feelings about Native stereotypes when it comes to money. And those feelings are big.

TikToker Lily (Diné), aka @sheshortnbrown, has jumped on the “Questions I Get Asked” trend by sharing some of the comments she says she’s tired of hearing as a Native woman — one being, “must be nice to not pay taxes.”

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“No, I do,” she answers. “[D]o your favorite billionaires pay them tho?”

Shots fired.

It’s a fair point. Check out how many non-Native multibillionaires — with a “b” — on this list dodge the income tax train.

Another TikToker, @sherry.mckay (Anishinaabe) shares how the myth extends to our First Nations families in Canada.

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While showing off literal receipts, McKay shares just how much she’s paid in sales taxes.

“Stop with the narrative that Indigenous people don’t pay taxes,” she says.

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Meanwhile, Patricia Raylynn (Salish and Pend d’Oreille) shakes her head at the multiple Native stereotypes thrown her way, including one that asks if she gets free money from the government.

While there are so many myths that seek to undermine Indigenous communities, the ones that imply undeserved financial gain are particularly insidious. 

After all, when you’re losing $977,720 on average over the course of a 40-year career, being accused of shorting the government that colonized your tribe is, well — to keep with the money theme — rich.

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If you enjoyed reading this article, check out In The Know’s story on the finance expert who shares tips for women of color to negotiate for more money.

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