Coushatta Tribe addresses funding changes

Published 6:03 am Thursday, March 7, 2024

Special to the American Press

The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana on Wednesday addressed changes to their funding allocations made as a result of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Secretarial Order and final regulations about taxation of Federally Recognized Tribes.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently upheld that states do not have the authority to tax Tribal nations,” Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana Chairman Jonathan Cernek said in a press release. “The power to authorize such payments to other governments resides exclusively with the federal government, a power that has never been exercised in the context of Indian gaming. As a government, our primary focus is to care for our people including developing jobs, healthcare, and education. In light of the new federal order, mandatory payments to local governments are no longer required.”

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As a general matter, Federally Recognized Tribes are exempt from taxation by the states, and only Congress can authorize state taxation of sovereign nations recognized by the federal government, such as the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana. The BIA recently issued an order under which the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana will no longer be required to make payments to local governments under its state-approved Gaming Compact.

“Our value to this region of Louisiana — and the entire State — will continue to grow,” Cernek said. “The BIA recognizes our inherent right to practice sovereignty and self-governance rather than continuing the practice of one-sided dependence on the success of our sovereign nation by other governments,”

Recently the BIA issued an order that any mandatory payments from the Tribe to local governments are often in contravention of federal law, according to the release.

“The federal government has treaty and trust responsibilities to Tribal Nations,” Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland said. “A key part of that is our obligation to support Tribal Nations as they work to revitalize communities by opening businesses and creating jobs that strengthen their economic self-sufficiency.”

But the Tribe’s economic impact, through its successful business ventures, will continue to serve as the backbone of the local economy. The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana is a federally recognized Indian tribe that provides 2,900 jobs, 29 percent of which trace back to the Coushatta Casino Resort. It also generates $11.2 million annually for the State Treasury and over  $159 million in household earnings (89 percent of the state’s entire forestry sector household income).

According to a study by renowned economist Loren Scott, in 1994, Allen Parish ranked last in per capita income statewide. Since the Coushatta Tribe began opening its businesses in 1995, Allen Parish has risen 9 spots from the bottom. The report goes on to state that Coushatta enterprises support nearly a third of the entire Allen Parish economy – a position it is expected to hold into the future.

In addition to the economy it created, the Tribe has been paying local government for specific services for decades. Since these terms were established, the Tribe now provides its own services via its own government through its police force, and other agencies, creating savings for the surrounding community.

Since the 1990s, despite making payments to local governments for services that were never rendered, the Coushatta Tribe invested heavily in resources for its members that had larger community benefits and impact such as establishing their own police and fire service. Under the new federal order, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana joins two other federally recognized tribes in Louisiana that have no obligation to mandatory payments to local government entities.

A copy of the revised compact can be found online at