Posts Tagged ‘Cattaraugus Indian Reservation’

A protester positions himself along the I-90 thruway on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation to protest the proposed New York state cigarette tax to non-Native American consumers in Irving, N.Y. (AP Photo/Don Heupel)

A protester positions himself along the I-90 thruway on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation to protest the proposed New York state cigarette tax to non-Native American consumers in Irving, N.Y. (AP Photo/Don Heupel)

Even before yesterday’s shooting of a security guard outside a Native American-owned cigarette shop on Long Island, tensions were high over New York’s plan to collect taxes on cigarettes sold by Natives to non-Natives. Carolyn Thompson of the Associated Press explores the issue in depth:

 Diane Garrido holds a flag during a rally last week on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation to protest the proposed New York state cigarette tax to non-Native American consumers in Irving, N.Y. (AP Photo/Don Heupel)

Diane Garrido holds a flag during a rally last week on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation to protest the proposed New York state cigarette tax to non-Native American consumers in Irving, N.Y. (AP Photo/Don Heupel)

CATTARAUGUS INDIAN RESERVATION, N.Y. (AP) — As New York Indian Nation leaders battle in courtrooms to preserve their tax-free cigarette market, tensions are rising on reservations, where the state’s renewed efforts to tax sales to non-Native customers is viewed as yet another attack on Native American rights.

“For 200 years, we have been dealing with efforts to take our land, efforts to take our resources, efforts to take our jurisdiction,” said Robert Odawi Porter, senior policy adviser and counsel for the 7,800-member Seneca nation in western New York, which says its cigarette business is a $100 million-a-year industry.

Trustee Lance Gumbs from Long Island’s Shinnecock tribe called the tax “just another extension of … the genocidal tactics of New York state.”

“Every tribe is committed to fight this issue,” said Gumbs at his smoke shop in Southampton.

Nine New York tribes are in the cigarette business. The $4.35 sales tax would force them to raise their prices and blunt their competitive edge over off-reservation sellers. Tribal leaders say the income loss would devastate economies.

A rally last week alongside the New York state Thruway where it bisects the Senecas’ Cattaraugus reservation was organized as a peaceful “people’s rally.” But there were reminders of 1997 chaos that erupted the last time the state tried to tax reservation sales.

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There’s concern that recent vandalism on railroad tracks on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation is tied to the recent — and controversial — decision to ban the sale of mail-order cigarettes, a key source of income for some tribal businesses.

A sign near the site of the vandalism site read “No Mail, No Rail,” presumably in reference to the new federal PACT (Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking) Act. (See previous post here.)

WIVB reports here that:

    The Seneca Nation of Indians confirms that railroad ties were purposely placed on CSX tracks a couple of hundred yards east of the Cattaraugus Creek railroad bridge, and that an Amtrak train sustained damage to its air lines when it struck the ties on Monday.

    Nation President Barry Snyder in a statement Friday says “This was an extremely irresponsible and dangerous act that could have resulted in harm to Amtrak passengers and crew members.”

No one was injured.

Tribes maintain the PACT Act constitutes a violation of tribal sovereignty.

Gwen Florio

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New York Gov. David A. Paterson says he’ll pursue tax collection on tribal cigarette sales – but tribal leaders say the move will devastate their economy, and they’ll fight back.

“They need to leave us alone and let us do our business and create opportunities for our people,” J.C. Seneca, a tribal councilor and co-chairman of the Seneca Nation Foreign Relations Council, tells the Buffalo News, here.

Paterson’s budget plan would put raise cigarette taxes by $1 to $3.75 a pack, the nation’s highest rate – something that would make cheaper tribal cigarettes all the more attractive. But Paterson also plans to end New York’s “forbearance” policy of not enforcing existing laws to collect taxes on cigarettes sold by tribes to non-Natives.

After a six-month public comment period, the state could start collecting those taxes as early as July. As the News’ Tom Precious writes:

    Seneca said the Paterson move will harm relations with Native Americans. “We’re going to hunker down and dig in. If the state is going to take a position that they want conflict and controversy, then that’s what they are going to get,” he said.

    Seneca said he is considering proposing his own six-month comment period about whether to give the state access to the Thruway that cuts through the tribe’s Cattaraugus reservation.

    “He’s talking out of both sides of his mouth,” Seneca said of Paterson’s plan to move to collect the tax but negotiate with the tribes.

Gwen Florio

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