New York Gov. David A. Paterson visited western New York yesterday to mark the opening of a new Yahoo! Data Center. But instead of celebration, his arrival was greeted by a protest from members of the Tuscarora and Seneca Indian nations.
WGZ-TV reports that they booed as Paterson’s helicopter flew overhead:
For now, the state cannot collect taxes on Native-sold cigarettes, but that’s only due to a temporary federal injunction. If that is lifted by a federal judge, the governor promises to collect the taxes at the wholesale level.
Natives have said such an action would destroy their economies. They hoped to get the Governor’s attention and that of Western New York, to plead their case.
New York has tried to collect the taxes before, only to back off after protests that briefly closed the New York Thruway. But now the state desperately needs money and it’s estimated the taxes could bring in as much as $200 million.
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)
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.
n this Aug. 23, 2010 photo, a motorist enters a business on the Tonawanda Seneca Nation in New York. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
Here’s the story from the Associated Press:
In this Aug. 23, 2010 photo, signs are posted on a bridge on the Tonawanda Seneca Nation in New York. Tensions are rising as the state nears the Sept. 1 start date to collect taxes on cigarettes sold by Indian tribes. The photo at left depicts New York Gov. David Paterson, while the photo at right depicts New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A federal judge has temporarily blocked New York state’s plans to tax the Seneca and Cayuga nations’ sales of cigarettes to non-Indian customers.
Judge Richard Arcara granted a request by the tribes for a court order that stops the state from imposing a $4.35 per pack sales tax on cigarettes sold by reservation retailers starting on Wednesday. The ruling delays those collections for at least two weeks. It wasn’t immediately clear if the state will go ahead with taxes on other tribes.
Attempts to collect the tax in the 1990s resulted in sometimes violent protests on Seneca lands.
The Senecas — the biggest player in the business — and Cayugas argued the policy change violates sovereign rights and will damage their economies.
The cash-strapped state sees the tax as a potential $200 million source of annual revenue.
With but one day left until New York state starts collecting a $4.35-a-pack cigarette taxes on reservations, the issue is now up to a federal judge.
As the Buffalo News puts it, “he stakes are high, and the clock is ticking.”
Yesterday, New York Supreme Court Judge Donna M. Siwek refused to block the state from collecting taxes on cigarettes sold in Native-owned stores to non-Native customers. The tax would add $4.35 per XXXX.
Tribes are fighting down to the wire, the News reports:
With tax collections scheduled to begin Wednesday, the Seneca Nation and other Indian tribes will get another chance to fight the law in federal court this afternoon.
They will ask U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara to issue an injunction delaying the implementation of the new law, which could ignite some violent demonstrations by angry Senecas.
“For us, these are grave circumstances,” said Robert Odawi Porter, a Seneca Nation lawyer and tribal presidential candidate,tells the News.
Both tribal and state officials have expressed fears that attempts to collect the tax could spark violence. In years past, similar attempts led to a shutdown of the New York Thruway where it runs through tribal land. Gov. David A. Paterson referred last week to the possibility of “violence and death.”
The state desperately needs the money from the tax, which could bring an estimated $200 million a year. But some tribal members tell WIVB (video above) that if the state tries to collect the tax, they won’t pay.
We don’t write these things, we just pass ‘em along. Most days, we’re envious of the very fine reporting and writing comprising the items we post here, and say so. Today’s editorial from the New York Daily News, however, doesn’t need any comment.
It’s headlined “Time to kick butts: Gov. Paterson must crack down on Indian cigarette tax evasion.”
New York Gov. David A. Paterson (AP photo)
And it reads, in part:
Gov. Paterson is vowing to launch a long-overdue drive on Wednesday to collect legally owed taxes from Indian cigarette dealers. He must hang tough, and he must succeed. For decades, New York officials have shamefully stood by as scofflaws operating under the cover of Native American sovereignty have openly and aggressively sold millions upon millions of tax-free smokes. … Tribal leaders who claim to be exercising rights under centuries-old treaties are blowing smoke.
The editorial reminds people of Paterson’s recent warning that “violence and death” could occur if the state attempts to collect the taxes – despite the fact the Seneca Nation leader Barry Snyder has called for calm.
Meanwhile, a federal judge is holding off on a decision as to whether the state can go forward Wednesday with collecting the tax, the Buffalo News reports.
New York Gov. David A. Paterson says the state start collecting taxes on Native American cigarettes, even though “violence and death” could result. as a result of his plan to collect a $4.35-per-pack tax on smokes sold by American Indian stores.
The $4.35-a-pack tax woudl apply to smokes sold to non-Natives in Native American stores.
“There will be quite an uprising and protest to this, but I am going to maintain this policy,” the New York Daily News says Paterson told WOR-AM.
“This is a very dangerous situation,” the governor said. “There is – I think – a high alert. The state police tell us over and over again that there could be violence and death as a result of some of the measures we’re taking.”
Efforts to collect the tax more than a decade ago resulted in protests that shut down the New York Thruway. Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder has called for no violence.
Here’s the part in the Daily News Story that boggles the mind: A sentence reads:
The American Indians claim they are sovereign nations, citing 18th century treaties, and therefore free of any state-imposed taxes.
Claim? Sounds like somebody better read up on history and law.
You know what would make a great video? New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg issuing a formal apology to the Native American community for his racially insensitive remarks.
Those remarks concern Bloomberg’s advice to New York Gov. David A. Paterson that he get a “cowboy hat and a shotgun” and go connect taxes on Native cigarettes sold to non-Natives. New York, facing a severe budget crisis, opted to start collecting those taxes Sept. 1.
The situation was tense enough before Bloomberg’s comment, which sparked a rally this week by members of the Seneca and Oneida nations, among others, at New York City Hall. Now it’s worse. Hence, the Post-Standard editorial, which ended thusly:
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (AP photo)
Bloomberg is free to weigh in on the issue, of course, but as the National Congress (of American Indians) suggests, he should do so in the spirit of diplomacy. That effort should begin with a full-throated apology for his ill-conceived remarks. Following that, he might want to venture Upstate to visit a few Indian nations and familiarize himself with the struggles their residents face and the progress they have made. He could not help but be more sensitive in his future pronouncements if he did so.
Representatives of Native American tribes and organizations call on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to apologize for racially insensitive remarks he made on John Gambling's Aug. 13 radio show. Local Onieda Nation members joined Monday's rally on the steps of City Hall. (Bryan Smith/New York Daily News)
Members of Native American tribes gathered on the steps of New York’s City Hall yesterday to take New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to task for the insensitivity of his recent remarks on how cigarette taxes should be collected from Native Americans.
According to the New York Post, Bloomberg suggested to Gov. David Paterson: “You know, get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun. If there’s ever a great video, it’s you standing in the middle of the New York State Thruway saying, you know, ‘Read my lips: The law of the land is this and we’re going to enforce the law.’”
Tribes immediately protested, noting that the remark came at a time when Bloomberg was calling for tolerance of a mosque planned near Ground Zero. The National Congress of American Indians seeks an apology.
The Seneca Nation of Indians passed a Tribal Council Resolution on Aug. 14 condemning Bloomberg’s comment as derogatory against the nation and its membership.
The resolution demands that Bloomberg resign his post as mayor of New York City and provide a formal written apology to the Seneca Nation and its members. The resolution also asks Paterson to publicly condemn Bloomberg’s comments and authorizes Seneca President Barry Snyder to file human rights and hate crime violations with the state of New York, Justice Department and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People.
Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said in a prepared statement that “You can similarly imagine how members of the Jewish community would react if a politician urged the governor to ‘wear a red armband and hold a shotgun’ to confront Jewish people who defend their lands as we defend ours,” Halbritter wrote in a letter to Bloomberg. “While you claim to be calling just for the law to be enforced, surely as a Jewish leader you would recognize the tragic history of laws being used to suppress ethnic minorities.”
The cause of the controversy revolves around the state’s preparation to start collecting, on Sept. 1, a $4.35 per pack sales tax on cigarettes sold by Native American retailers to non-Native customers.
James Odata of the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union is keeping an eye on the situation today as tribal members protest Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s remarks on a tax on Native American cigarettes set to begin Sept. 1.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (AP photo)
Tribal members from as far away as the Seneca territory planned to meet in New York City this morning to protest outside city hall. Their rally was motivated by comments by Mayor Michael Bloomberg that have spread from tribe to tribe across the country. …
The National Congress of American Indian representatives and members of the upstate and Long Island tribes have been planning to merge outside the mayor’s offices. The group intends to ask for an apology and discuss sovereignty.
Bloomberg’s comment: According to the New York Post, he suggested the following to Gov. David Paterson. “I said to David Paterson, I said, ‘You know, get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun. If there’s ever a great video, it’s you standing in the middle of the New York State Thruway saying, you know, ‘Read my lips: The law of the land is this and we’re going to enforce the law.'”
We’ll be following this throughout the day.
New York tribes to rally tomorrow in protest of Bloomberg’s “cowboy” remark
It’s a shame it takes a subscription to read all of this Newsday story, but the two-paragraph tease is pretty clear: “Native American outrage over New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s broadcast advice to Gov. David A. Paterson to ‘get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun’ [read full remarks in the New York Post] to collect Indian cigarette taxes will extend into next week with a rally at City Hall. Harry Wallace, chief of the Unkechaug Indian Nation of Mastic, a frequent target of the mayor, said Friday he was organizing the rally Monday.” Rest assured, we’ll keep you posted. The tax is supposed to go into effect Sept. 1.
Group seeks justice for missing, murdered aboriginal women
Cherry Smiley of the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network in Vancouver deals daily with the worst society dishes out to women – abuse, sexual exploitation, violence. And she has a pertinent question, especially on the issue of young girls finding themselves in these situations: “Why is society not horrified by what is happening here? This is not child labor, it’s child rape, yet the authorities have done little to deal with the pimps and perpetrators.” Valerie Talliman writes about it in Indian Country Today.
Assembly of First Nations seeks probe into police handling of serial killer case
And speaking of missing and murdered women – The Assembly of First Nations has joined other groups seeking a public probe into the way police in Vancouver, British Columbia, handled the caes of serial killer Robert Pickton. Many of Pickton’s victims were First Nations women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, said National Chief Shawn Atleo, who is a hereditary chief from Ahousaht. “A full and comprehensive public inquiry, with the participation of aboriginal people, is the only way to address the need for respect, justice and a better understanding of how we can prevent these tragedies in the future,” Atleo tells the Montreal Gazette here.
Las Vegas union makes contentious move to organize Navajo casino staff
Accusations and counter-accusations are flying as Culinary Workers Union Local 226, based in Las Vegas, attempts to unionize staff at the Fire Rock Navajo Casino. The union says casino management has been intimidating workers and trying to discourage them from signing up; management says it’s following the letter of the law. Bill Donovan, special to the Navajo Times, lays it all out.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to visit Inuit territories this week
Prime Minister Stephen Harper starts a five-day swing through all three northern territories starting tomorrow. The trip will kick off with a visit to Churchill, Man. Aug. 23. Harper will stop in Cambridge Bay Aug. 24, and then to to Resolute Bay on Aug. 25, the Nunatsiaq News reports here.