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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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

When is a Fight Worth Fighting?

The US Congress is looking to deal a crippling blow to Native tobacco retailers; in particular those retailers who sell tobacco and use the US mail for delivery. Under the guise of "saving the children", the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act specifically moves to make tobacco non-mailable. Claims that tens of thousands of children order cigarettes through the mail have fanned the flames of this legislation that targets Native retailers almost exclusively. Much of the momentum that this measure enjoys is due, in no small part, to the fact that it appears that no resistance is being offered up by Native people.
The Seneca Nation is home to the largest number of mail order tobacco shops. It is estimated that 80% of their retail tobacco sales are delivered by mail. The Seneca Nation which has adopted the most strict and heavy handed stamping/tax/pricing/inspection scheme of the Nations involved in the business (complete with tobacco police with badges and uniforms) generated over $30,000,000 in 2008 from the individual retailers. 80% of that will disappear with the death of the mail order retailers. The 19 wholesaler/stamping agents of the Seneca Nation will likely reduce to three. All of the brands manufactured in Seneca territory will fail and with big tobacco throwing Native retailers under the bus, a reliable source of product for the brick and mortar stores will be almost impossible to come by. The Native private sector tobacco business represents the largest employer in Western New York and contributes more to the Native and surrounding economy than any other industry, including gaming. This will change when 80% of it goes away.
You would expect both the individual Native tobacco businesses and the Seneca Nation (that has learned so much from the State about how to fleece them) to launch a full scale media and lobbying effort to debunk all the misinformation used to push this act and defend their businesses. But you would be wrong. The Seneca Nation Senior Policy Advisor and Legal Counsel, Rob Porter, believes this fight is not worth fighting. As such he has discouraged the Nation's involvement in any attempts to resist or even speak out against the PACT Act. He has also criticized the handful of retailers that have been trying to put a program together to fight the act, calling it "foolish and wasteful" and referring to their legal counsel as a "white lawyer" "selling snake oil". Although Mr. Porter is advising no action regarding the PACT Act he has expressed his very deep concern that non-compliance by the retailers to the tobacco laws he wrote might "affect... the business supply lines." Thus he is calling for "Vigorous Nation enforcement" by their tobacco police to protect the Nation and specifically "cutting off supply to illegally operating retailers/stamping agents."
So to make this clear, Porter is recommending no action against the federal legislation that is about to destroy the Seneca Nation's private sector economy, but is calling for "Vigorous Nation enforcement" against their own people instead. The ridiculousness of Rob Porter's advice seems almost unworthy of comment. The fact that there will be little left to fleece seems to have completely eluded him.
What Rob and all those retailers on the sidelines who hope someone else will save the day for them or just figure the fight is not worth fighting don't realize is that win or lose we still have got to be heard. To go down without a fight is just plain giving up. To not even speak up, lets those who continue to stomp on any success we have, do it guilt free. We have to shame them. We have to call out their lies, expose their bullshit stats and call them for what they are. When anti-Indian legislation is proposed, we have to expose it for what it is. We can't let them try to claim it is for the children or for fire safety or to prevent terrorism. If we quietly throw the towel in then it looks like we were wrong all along. If we refuse to shame those who work against us then shame on those who just sat by and watched. When our kids and grand kids ask us why we let this one go without a fight, what will be the answer? For Rob Porter, your success is the private sector's failure so let's hope you fail or pay dearly for your success.
What gets lost in all this is that we can fight this and the reality is that we have pushed back and won before. There are several hundred legislators in Washington that have no idea who we are or what we do. It is our job to make them see us and hold them accountable for their actions. I do believe there are plenty of them that wish we would just disappear, but we only need to arm a few of them to oppose legislation aimed at our destruction. The Seneca people must lead this charge not just because it is winnable, but because it is a fight worth fighting. Who knows you might even win your Nation back.


Anonymous said...

It is very funny of the irony of it all ! Tax the Indians and they do nothing backward mfs . Now take a good look at Wendts in North Tonawanda owned by Russians and Croations all tax free!?? the more immigrants they have the better? go figure 29 lay offs up and coming and all from here they are keeping the immigrants? but they tried to tax them and the threat was made and the state back right away?whats up ?this is a heavy crushing plant they make crushers rock,car etc...

ohnkwe ohnwe said...

This comment was emailed to me from Wayah regarding the Native Pride Blog...

Behind the words of one of our ancestors, [a man named Dragging canoe] of the Chickamauga Cherokee circa 1700s, "Treaties with the whites may be ok for those who are to old to hunt or fight, as for me, I have my young warriors about me and we will keep our lands". Behind those words ,for those who today are to-feeble of mind, spirit and heart, to hear or see, is meant this; Dragging canoes' heart, mind and spirit were not so, "compromised" as those of today, he felt-knew and believed in the original way of the original people of turtle island. He knew-that one person, one by one-must embody all that came before and went into "Making" us. By your very birth-you-I-all of us of the ancient blood of the Americas', carry everything within us that is needed to fight and do what must be done in order to not loose ones-soul, spirit,mind and ones -freedom!
What do you think freedom is then?, Is it merely the ability to eek out a living scrapping by each day, trying to pay oppressive taxes to overseers (that would be the US or Canadian Gvts], and see your children and mate daily bend under both physical and mental and spiritual burden as pressed down daily upon us all by those that call themselves our "Leaders" [band councils chiefs] and those of the Destroyers who sit in the seats of power in Ottawa and Washington DC? Is it? How can one see this as freedom?
There are other words of our ancestors -they are:
"it is not necessary for eagles to be Crows"- Yotanka ioTanka [sitting Bull-Dakota]
"let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work and rest where I want and to follow the religion of my fathers and I will obey every law or submit to the penalties"
Hinmoot Tloohleket [aka Chief Joseph-Ne-Pierce]
"Every treaty with the whites begins and ends the same way,"move a Little farther from us as you are still to near"-[speckled snake of the Muskogee]
Then there's the words of My Aunt they ring in my ears to this day, in admonishing her own son who had derided a cousin of less than full blood status as was he, she said;"Boy! either you are Indian or you ain't, now which are you!?"
well, which ARE WE TO BE! the choice is in the end- YOURS to make NOT the Destroyers!

Uwas’ Neyahdu’hi’ k’dodi ni’i’ Only may there be peace within your presence.
Akax alew akax elati It is so right now, it is so in heaven

Pridebourne said...

The PACT Act is not anti-indian legislation. The Act attempts to close loopholes that allow home delivery of Tax-free cigarettes. Cigarette retailers and consumers are merely taking advantage of a mail-order system that allows them to evade state, local, and tribal taxes. All mail-order cigarette retailers will be required to comply with the laws and taxes of the state or place they deliver their products to. Spending money on lobbyists to try and tell the US Congress to give native retailers the right to sell their products anywhere in the United States tax-free is a "foolish and wasteful" use of resources.

ohnkwe ohnwe said...

Any legislation that disproportionately targets the avtivity of Indians is anti-Indian. Every city, county, state or country with a distinct regulatory advantage markets that advantage. The point of sale for mail order and internet sales is where the payment is made or information is gathered for payment, The Native retailers conduct these sales on our own sovereign land. These sales are not taxable. Whether there is a tax liability for where and by whom the product is consumed is an issue for those consumers and the states they live in. Interestingly, every state has a forebearance or allowance policy toward a limited amount of untaxed product being consumed in their jurisdiction.
Native retailers are no longer just selling the same product as the non-native convenient stores. They are marketing Native produced and branded products available for sale only from Native stores. The prime commercial markets in the US and Canada were essentially stolen from our people. The internet and mail leveled the playing field for market access. In spite of the fact that our people were pushed to remote out of the way territories, our people managed to move from retail of established tobacco products to marketing, distribution, manufacturing, importing and the elevation of internet and direct marketing sales.
Direct to consumer sales eliminates black market, including organized crime and of course those dreaded terrorists. Mail order tobacco sales is also one of the few positive blips on the US Postal Service radar. Delivery, marketing and payment have all provided a much needed boost in revenue for the USPS. The PACT Act will not only strip this revenue away but it will add expense to the USPS due to enforcement of the act. Current resources used on such issues as pornography (including child porn) and hazardous materials (including biological weapons) will be stretched to prevent the mailing of legal products like cigarettes and chew.
No one seems to be interested in taking a look at what happens when tobacco becomes illegal to mail. Some would have you believe that a few rich Indians will just be less rich and that the states will make up huge revenue shortfalls with the additional taxes collected. Here are some of the things not being considered: the sucking sound from the revenue lost to the economies around Native land, a thousand lost jobs, opportunities for a resurgents in the black market, domestic and foreign enterprises that will mail anyway, the straw that breaks the back of the USPS and more resentment and hostility by those of us who have plenty to be pissed about.

Anonymous said...

A Fight worth fighting for. Yes, I can identify with that comment. Iam the youngest female in my family,my brother was taken at an early age by the big C. He was the only male to carry on the family name. My fight is just to carry on the family name and do what I can to maintain respect for our FAMILY. Respecting the FAMILY, guarantees respect for the ANCESTORS who left us with our legacy of being a NATIVE PEOPLE. Thereby insuring respect for my people. Any fight I can become involved in will grant that continued respect for the NATIVE PEOPLE...