Rather than paying an annual vehicle-registration fee to the state, Yakama tribal members will soon be able to go to their own government for plates and registrations.
YAKIMA — Rather than paying an annual vehicle-registration fee to the state, Yakama tribal members will soon be able to go to their own government for plates and registrations.
Earlier this week, the tribe began a pilot program to issue its own vehicle registrations and tabs to several members. By March, the program will open to all members. According to a Yakama Nation news release issued Wednesday, they’ll be good for travel on all roads throughout the country.
Although the state has been discussing details of the program with the roughly 10,000-member tribe for nearly a year, officials at the Department of Licensing weren’t aware it was ready to launch, according to spokesman Brad Benfield.
“At this point, those conversations are still ongoing, and we still have a lot of issues with them,” he said. Among them, he said, the state would like to have access to the tribe’s database of registered vehicles.
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According to the tribe, all local authorities will have access to tribal vehicle registration by contacting Yakama tribal police anytime of the day or night. The tribe said it will also make information available to top law-enforcement agencies throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Eventually, the tribe will join a national database where vehicle registration can be accessed by authorities, according to the tribal news release.
Administered by the Yakama tribal police, the program will abide by standards outlined by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the release said.
It’s not clear how much license plates and annual tabs would cost tribal members. Phone calls to tribal leaders were not immediately returned Thursday.
A sovereign government, the Yakama Nation holds a treaty with the federal government and isn’t bound by state law in many areas.
Asserting its sovereignty, the tribe is following the example of other tribes in other states who have for years operated their own vehicle-licensing programs.
Tribal governments began starting up their own auto-licensing programs in 1993 after the Sac & Fox Nation won a U.S. Supreme Court case against the Oklahoma Tax Commission. The tribe claimed that the state did not have a right to tax tribal members through car-tab sales.
Several Oklahoma tribes, including the Cherokee and Osage nations, have auto-licensing programs. In Minnesota, the Red Lake Nation issues tribal licenses.