(Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect 2022 data.)
There’s a common myth among non-Natives across the U.S. 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 Native Americans are exempt from all of it.
Not so. In fact, as an enrolled citizen of the Muscogee and Cherokee Nations, 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 (e.g., 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 51 cents, down from last year’s 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 83 cents on the dollar.
Native American Women’s Equal Pay Day 2022
Nov. 30, 2022, has been designated Native American Women’s Equal Pay Day because today represents the number of additional days into 2022 it has taken a Native woman in the U.S. to earn what took a non-Hispanic white man to earn in 2021 alone.
That’s right — more than a full year and 11 months. What’s even more troubling is that this date is later than last year’s equal pay day for Native women, which fell on Sept. 8, 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic played a significant role in those updated figures, shifting the employment landscape for many U.S. workers, including Native American women.
“Millions of jobs were lost as the result of the pandemic, particularly among low-paid women workers, while others were forced into part-time work,” the National Women’s Law Center reports.
As Secretary 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.
“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 reported in 2019.
Over the course of an income-taxed career, that adds up. According to the organization, the wage gap costs Native women more than $1.1 million over the course of their careers.
Indigenous women have 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.”
“No, I do,” she answers. “[D]o your favorite billionaires pay them tho?”
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.
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.
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 more than $1 million 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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