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INDIAN RESERVATION STAMPS
By Michael Jaffe
The interest in Indian Reservation stamps has been on the increase for several years. Contrary to the belief of many collectors, Indian Reservations are not jumping on the stamp issuing bandwagon. The fact of the matter is that most Indian Reservations dont really care about stamp collectors. The purpose of these stamps is to allow sportsmen to hunt and fish on Reservation lands. Although money is raised for the tribe by selling stamps to collectors, the total amount brought in is quite small compared to the main thrust of fund raising of most Indian Reservations today: casino gambling. I am hopeful that I can answer some of the most frequent questions and concerns regarding this relatively new collecting field.
There are over 400 different Indian Reservations in the United States. Many of these are very small and dont allow hunting or fishing on their Reservation. A larger number of Reservations issue special permanent type ID cards to their members, which allow them to fish and hunt on tribal grounds. Some of these reservations have validation stickers that are placed on the back of the ID card. These stickers are well controlled and not usually allowed outside the hands of the person in charge of issuing the permits.
Many Indian Reservations that issue stamps have a multi tiered price structure. Although some have a face value printed on them, most do not. This enables the issuing agent to charge the appropriate fee to the purchaser. For example, if you want to hunt deer or antelope on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, you would be issued a license and receive a stamp. The price you would pay for this would depend on if you were a Tribal Member and where you lived. An enrolled tribal member is charged $5.00. A member of another Indian Reservation is charged $10.00. North Dakota residents (non-Indians) are charged $30.00 and non-residents pay $100.00. Tribal members over 60 are not charged at all. (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe General Hunting & Fishing Regulations. 1992)
Most Indian Reservations that issue stamps do so to maintain control of who hunts and fishes on their Reservation. The first Indian Reservation to issue their own stamps was the Rosebud Reservation of South Dakota in the late 1950s. (Torre, 1992; 1995) Crow Creek Sioux Tribe of South Dakota began issuing stamps in 1961. Since that time, fewer than 20 Indian Reservations have issued any type of stamps for hunting or fishing and some of those have discontinued their use. I am only aware of one Reservation that has begun to issue stamps since the end of 1992; the Pueblo of Zuni, which started a stamp, program in 1995. Unlike many state duck stamp programs which issue stamps with the purpose of raising needed funds from the collector market, Reservations that issue stamps do so for the purpose of hunting and fishing on Indian land. In 1992, the Oglala Sioux (Pine Ridge Reservation) and Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe (SWST) each issued a waterfowl stamp depicting a picture of a duck. These were produced in a larger than normal quantity with collectors in mind. SWST went back to their text style waterfowl stamp in 1993 and the Oglala issued a pictorial waterfowl stamp in 1993. The 1993 stamp was overprinted for 1994. With the exception of these few stamps, the demands of the collectors and dealers have not influenced the stamp production at any Reservation.
Indian Reservations that sell their stamps to collectors usually do not do so until the hunting or fishing season is over. This is done to ensure that enough stamps will be available for the sportsmen. Occasionally, the reservation runs out of stamps. Although this is frustrating to the collector who wants a "complete" collection, this is one of the reasons many people want to start collecting Indian Reservation stamps. These people find it refreshing to collect stamps that were not produced with collectors in mind. True, the designs are simple and perhaps not as attractive as most pictorial state duck stamps - but keep in mind that sportsmen dont really care what their stamps or tags look like. They just want to hunt or fish.
The majority of available Indian Reservation stamps are not very expensive. In fact, most have face values of $20.00 or less. While a few tribes have stamps with face values up to $250 (most of these are for out of state big game hunters), the retail price on a high percentage of Indian Reservation stamps is $20.00 or less. Many of these stamps $20.00 or less stamps are in short supply with less than 100 known. Remember when North Dakota hunter type stamps were selling for three times face?
No one can predict the future of any collectible, but Indian Reservation stamps have a lot going for them: An interesting history, increasing collector interest and scarcity. Its not too late to start collecting Indian Reservation stamps, however it wont be long until even the inexpensive stamps begin to elude collectors.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe General Hunting & Fishing Regulations. SRST, ND, 1992.
Torre, D.R. Personal communication, 1992.
Torre, D.R. The Fish & Game Stamps of the Rosebud Reservation The American Revenuer, 1995 May issue