Believe What You Like But Know What You Must

People are free to be consumed with contemplating their existence, their origins, the origins of the universe, supreme beings, controllers of destiny or anything else. But solving "the Great Mystery" is neither a requirement of being Ohnkwe Ohnwe nor does it provide a path to righteousness. I maintain that spirituality does not require faith or the leaps that faith requires but rather awareness. If it helps to believe that "God has a plan" and we just must have faith that "He" knows what "He" is doing, then walk that path. My interest is in taking the mystery out of life by pointing to the obvious that is ignored everyday in the midst of fanatical ideology and the sometimes not too subtle influences of promoting beliefs over knowledge. I have said it before: “beliefs are what you are told, knowledge is what you experience”. I support a culture that prepares us to receive knowledge and to live a life with purpose. I am certainly not suggesting there is only one way to do that.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Our Tobacco Businesses Will Not Just Continue to Survive, They Will Grow

There are a lot of misconceptions about what the State can and cannot do with regards to Native retatil of any products including tobacco. The State has no more authority to tax the sales of tobacco on our lands today than it had when we started. What the State is hoping to do is prevent product from getting to us without their tax already applied. By and large most cigarettes sold by Native retailers have the Federal excise tax paid. The product comes to the wholesalers with the tax applied or in the case of imported product it is paid when clearing customs. The bottom line for the State is that they can only control their State licensed wholesalers and even these entities that they control must have their regulations legally and evenly applied with particular scrutiny paid to the interstate regulations. Any commerce conducted that involves products coming or going from our communities is interstate commerce. New York State does not have the authority to regulate interstate commerce or commerce with "Indians" specifically. This is is not called out in some overly debated treaty interpretation. It is mandated in the US Constitution. The signifiacance of having the State's wings clipped by the Constitution on both Native commerce and interstate commerce is that any "Indian" specific regulatory scheme must also abide by interstate commerce regulations. The State can do nothing about our manufacturing or our wholesale and distribution without violating Federal law and well established standards for interstate commerce. I do believe it is illegal for New York State to block non-native manufacturers, including Big Tobacco, from doing business with us and I also believe Philip Morris and the others are illegally discriminating against Native retailers by denying us product. However, I strongly believe we should bouycot these manufacturers and steal as much market share from them as we can and we should likewise avoid purchasing from the State licensed wholesalers to stay as far from the State's reach as possible. The tobacco business was ours first and it will be ours last. We will find ways to capitalize on the this industry that was hijacked from us and continue to develop products and markets that will susutain us. As we continue to develop in this business we will find more ways to keep more of the revenue from our manufacturing and sales. I look to the day when neither the State nor the Feds collect a cent of tax revenue from our commerce.

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