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TRAFFIC Q&A: Can Indian tribes issue license plates?

Post by John Henrikson / The News Tribune on June 10, 2011 at 12:05 pm with 2 Comments »
June 10, 2011 12:05 pm

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QUESTION: “On a recent trip through Federal Way I came across a private vehicle driving through the city with Muckleshoot Indian Tribe license plates. Since when were Indian tribes allowed to issue license plates to their members?”
– Richard Six Jr., Northeast Tacoma

ANSWER: A little-known, but long established law (RCW 6.16.022) allows recognized tribes to issue the equivalent of exempt license plates used on federal or state government vehicles.

“The Muckleshoot Tribe of King County is one of many tribes authorized by state law to use Native American Exempt license plates for use on vehicles owned by the tribe,” explained Brad Benfield, spokesman for the state Department of Licensing. “Individual tribal members are not eligible to use these plates on private vehicles. Tribal governments have the option of using government exempt license plates issued by DOL or issuing plates of their own design for use on vehicles owned by the tribal government.”

There are certain conditions, including that the vehicle is used exclusively in tribal government service and that the vehicle has been licensed and registered under a tribal law.

Muckleshoot Tribe spokesman Rollin Fatland believes the tribe has used such plates for at least 25 years and that there are only a small number in use.

Leave a comment Comments → 2
  1. southsound says:

    I spend a lot of time in Indian Country throughout the western United States and I really like it when the tribes use their own plates instead of Federal plates. This way I know it is a tribal member who has knowledge of the area and facilities which makes it easy for when asking for information. It gives me the feeling that the individual will be knowledgeable and willing to assist.

  2. Bhenry12022014 says:

    How does a Tribe go about making its own plates? I work for one and have been asked to find out…..

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