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FAQS about WLCC and

Tribal Corporations

Why Do Tribes Own Businesses and Tribal Corporations Like WLCC?

Like any nation state, including federal, state, and local governments, tribal governments must also provide essential governmental services, financial aid, and economic development opportunities to its nation and citizens. Unlike federal, state and local governments, however, Tribal governments have no tax base to generate their governmental revenue. 


Tribal land is federal trust land and is non-taxable, thus no property taxes. Our population base is so small and impoverished that an income tax would be futile and highly regressive, thus no income tax.  And while technically we should control sales taxes on our own nation, state governments have litigated sales tax to the point of inaccessibility for most tribal nations. 


Therefore, to generate basic governmental revenue, tribal governments must compete in the private commercial marketplace. See Matthew L.M. Fletcher, In Pursuit of Tribal Economic Development as a Substitute for Reservation Tax Revenue, 80 N.D. L. REV. 759 (2004). Thus, tribal nations own any plethora of types of businesses that might generate revenue and assist in funding their governmental obligations – hotels, casinos, gas stations, financial services, tourism, etc. 


The “best practice” in Indian Country per years of research by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development ( is for each tribe to create a tribal corporation, which serves as the economic development arm of the tribe and participates in private commerce. 


This achieves two primary purposes (1) due to the inherently volatile nature of the business world, it protects the tribal government and tribal treasury from the unpredictable nature of business and business contracts, and (2) it creates a professional business-focused decision-making structure separate from the inherently political nature of an elected tribal governance structure. 


Thus, following this best practice, the leadership of the Wakpamni Lake Community created an economic development holding company, the Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation (“WLCC”).


What is a “Wholly Owned Tribal Corporation”?


Tribal corporations are businesses or umbrella corporations which are wholly owned by a sovereign tribal nation and government, they are designed to serve as the economic development and revenue-generation arm of the tribal government. They can own and participate in any industry, ranging from gaming, hotels, supermarkets, to gas stations. The industry itself is generally not as important as the role the business plays in either creating jobs and/or generating governmental revenue. 


Most tribal nations have at least one if not dozens of wholly owned tribal corporations. Tribal corporations have all the same immunities as privileges as their owners, such as sovereign immunity and governmental tax status. However, it is a “best practice” for tribes to create these separate economic development arms to insulate the tribal governmental treasury from the natural ebbs of the business world as well as to insulate the business arm from the waves of elected political bodies. 


How Is WLCC Structured as a “Wholly Owned Tribal Corporation”?


As previously summarized, the Oglala Sioux Tribe is a federally recognized tribe. Within OST’s constitutional structure (Article VI), and subsequent codes (OST Ordinance 12-17), OST has delegated certain political and economic development authorities and powers as well as rights, privileges, and immunities to its subsidiary local governments. 


OST’s subsidiary local tribal governments are called “Districts” and “Communities,” not unlike counties and cities/municipalities in relation to their State governments. As subsidiary local governments with delegated authority, each District and Community may pursue its own independent economic development. Other large land-based tribes, like Navajo and Standing Rock, are similarly structured. 


Within the Oglala Sioux Tribal governance structure there exists nine (9) District governments, including the Wakpamni District. Within the Wakpamni District, there exists six (6) Community governments, including the Wakpamni Lake Community (OST Resolution 78-101, January 23, 1978). 


To create tribal governmental revenue and economic development opportunities for its residents, the Wakpamni Lake Community established and delegated economic development powers, as well as its privileges and immunities to the Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation (“WLCC”) (WLC Resolution 12-04). 


WLCC is the wholly owned economic development and revenue-generation arm of the Wakpamni Lake Community, and it is owned by and operates at the direction of the Wakpamni Lake Community. t is separate and district from the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Wakpamni District. It holds all the same privileges and immunities as wholly owned tribal corporations. 


What Are Some of the Benefits of Partnering with WLCC?


What Is A Tribal Corporation’s and WLCC’s Revenue Used For?


As with any wholly owned tribal corporation, tribal corporations are not owned by individuals or shareholders, they are owned by the tribal government itself, and all revenue of the tribal corporation is tribal governmental revenue. In our case, WLCC is owned by the Wakpamni Lake Community a subsidiary municipal tribal government of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. 


As is the “best practice” in the industry the government keeps a certain amount of the corporation’s proceeds in the tribal corporation to reinvest in additional economic growth and economic diversification, and a certain amount of the proceeds return to the tribal general fund as general governmental revenue to be utilized as needed in the course of the government’s priorities, programs, and obligations.


The Wakpamni Lake Community makes its own decisions about the use of its revenue. The board listens to the elders, tiospaye, and community to set the priorities, which are intentionally flexible to ensure the best needs of the families and community are met as those needs come up, and always within the traditional Lakota framework. Examples of some of Wakpamni Lake Community’s allowable government expenditures include, but are not limited to:


  • Strengthening Lakota language, culture, traditions, family structures, traditional structures and societies, traditional foods, sovereignty, etc.

  • Community sovereignty – including food and energy sovereignty and security 

  • Governmental programming (childcare, language classes, employment training, etc.)

  • Government services (fire station, propane, landscape and road maintenance, etc.)

  • Government subsidized businesses (such as propane, health facilities, coffee shop, etc.)

  • Community infrastructure (buildings, offices, meeting spaces, community centers, roads, winter maintenance, energy, food security, safety, etc.)

  • Community development (stores, gyms, activities, community events, etc.)

  • Community maintenance machinery (snowplows, landscaping, vehicles, etc.)

  • New business development and related business development expenses

  • Community quality of life events (sports, powwows, Indian horse relay, bingo, etc.)

  • Economic and job opportunities which provide community members a good cultural match (such as firefighting and seasonal jobs)

  • Improving the environment

  • Protection of the health, welfare, and security of our Community

  • Elder and veteran’s assistance 

  • Disability access

  • Food sovereignty gardens

  • Traditional foods hunting, gathering and growing and skills 

  • Lakota language and cultural programming and events (powwows, bingo, language, etc.)

  • Assistance with Ceremonies and ceremonial grounds

  • Assistance with rural transportation (car assistance, ride assistance, public transportation assistance)

  • Employment assistance (clothing, transportation, resume building, etc)

  • Assistance with living expenses (energy, food, housing, transportation, etc. assistance)

  • Youth, community, and tiospaye events (powwow, bingo, sports events, student travel, etc.)

  • Youth, community, and tiospaye team’s assistance (language, sports, academic, etc.)

  • Funeral assistance 

  • Entrepreneurship and small business assistance 

  • Employment assistance (training, clothing, transportation, etc.)

  • Education assistance (tuition, travel, books, etc.)

  • Equipment and machinery to assist with the community and events (axes, lawn mowers, log splitters, snowplows, trailers, etc.)

  • Traditional and western physical and mental health care and treatment 

  • Preventative health care (gym memberships, bicycles, diabetes prevention, gardens, traditional foods, health cooking classes, etc.)

  • Transportation assistance 

Litigation Related FAQs?


Q:        What Was the Galanis Bond Scheme?


A:   The Galanis Bond Scheme was a tragedy for all impacted. Wakpamni Lake and several retirement funds were the primary victims. Several criminals took jobs with, joined the board of, or outright purchased, legitimate well-established businesses. They did so to use these legitimate companies to perpetrate a long-term complex scheme to steal the proceeds of tribal issued bonds.


WLCC was one of the first to identify the scheme and to turn in the fraudulent criminals to federal authorities. No tribal officials, tribal staff, tribal lawyers, or any WLCC associates were ever accused of any wrongdoing, and we cooperated as primary witnesses throughout the entire investigation and trial. Wakpamni Lake Community was a named victim in the criminal prosecution restitution.


Q:        Was that Al-Jazeera Article Accurate?


A:   No, it is not accurate. The Al-Jazeera article about WLCC continues to get circulation. But, the journalist’s lack of understanding of United States’ tribal government structures caused a great deal of confusion and inaccuracy in the article. This inexperience was further fueled by a disgruntled former tribal economic development office employee. Unfortunately, the falsehoods were so pronounced the Wakpamni Lake Community had to file an Injunction Petition


Some Benefits
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