Taxing Neighbors: Tribal and Municipal Conflict over New York's Fiscal Borders

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In 2005, the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York (CIN) lost a federal land claim that would have allowed it to reclaim the historic reservation that New York State illegally bought at the turn of the 18th century. After losing the case, the nation began to pursue a new strategy to rebuild its reservation: buying land on the open market that one day might be converted to federal trust land. Following these recent purchases, the nation has refused to pay property taxes and to collect sales taxes at its local businesses, much to the chagrin of most local politicians and many town residents. As these politicians and residents denounce the nation for not paying/collecting these taxes, they offer the CIN an either/or choice for belonging in this space: come here as local citizens, or uphold Cayuga sovereignty as a foreign nation moving into “our” territory. Cayuga representatives, in contrast, describe options that sit outside of this binary: the CIN can belong in this space as a sovereign nation, and also as a part of the Seneca Falls community. They call upon fiscal models that depict tribal nations both as sovereign entities and as net contributors to the larger regional economy. This dissertation examines the complex discourses about the CIN’s tax refusals in Seneca Falls to show how dominant notions of tribal sovereignty present a conceptual binary that in effect asks tribal nations to deny their sovereignty to gain a place in the modern world. This dissertation also demonstrates that tribal nations such as the CIN use local fiscal systems to carve out alternative modes of political belonging.

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Economy; Taxation; citizenship; Indigenous; North America; Cultural anthropology; American studies; sovereignty; Native American studies


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Nadasdy, Paul

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Cheyfitz, Eric T.
Miyazaki, Hirokazu

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Ph. D., Anthropology

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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Attribution 4.0 International


dissertation or thesis

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