Question: “I was driving in Tacoma yesterday and saw a car with a license plate that said “Yakama Indian Nation” on it.
I know tribes are supposed to be sovereign nations, but can they really issue their own license plates? -- Janine, University Place
Answer: A little-known but long-established law (RCW 6.16.022) allows recognized tribes to issue the equivalent of the exempt license plates used on federal or state government vehicles.
The Yakama Tribe is one of many tribes authorized by state law to use Native American Exempt license plates for use on vehicles owned by the tribe, according to the state Department of Licensing.
Individual tribal members can’t use the plates on their private vehicles, but tribal governments have the option of using government-exempt license plates issued by Department of Licensing or issuing plates of their own design for use on vehicles owned by the tribal government.
Certain conditions apply. For example, the vehicle must be used exclusively in tribal government service and must be licensed and registered under a tribal firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a question about traffic congestion, construction, spending or other transportation issues? Send it to email@example.com. Include your name, hometown and daytime telephone number. We’ll answer as many as we can.