Last year, Governor Paterson signed into law a bill that would enforce collection of state tobacco taxes when non-natives buy cigarettes at native-owned stores. Albany estimates up to 400 million dollars a year in taxes are going uncollected. But like his three predecessors, Paterson’s administration said last week it will not try to collect the taxes. Remember when the Seneca Nation burned tires on the Thruway when then-Governor George Pataki tried to collect them? The whole issue is knotted up in lawsuits. New York City is suing a Long Island tribe. Two counties are suing the Cayuga Nation. The rulings could set precedents in the now cloudy case of tobacco taxes and native tribes. Jim Ransom says there’s an easy solution – sit down and talk. Ransom is chief of the St. Regis Mohawk tribe in Akwesasne. The Mohawks are at odds with New York State over three issues – the cigarette taxes, land claims in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, and building a casino in the Catskills. Ransom says one agreement can resolve them all.
That giant sucking sound is the State and federal government sucking on Ransom hoping the load he drops has the last remnants of Mohawk sovereignty neatly within it. The short-term instant gratification will be the Tribe's credit for putting a Casino in the Catskills. Ransom says he doesn't understand all the fuss over taxing the Mohawk people and Mohawk land claims. A Saint Regis Casino in the Catskills can fix it all. He brags about how successful the Tribe has been in meeting the demands of the State in the past. Joseph Brant would be proud. This will be the greatest sellout of the Mohawk People since he sold 9 million acres of Mohawk land for $1500. The beauty of this deception is that Brant had no more authority to claim to represent the Mohawk Nation than Ransom does. The last time the Saint Regis Tribe tried to claim to be the Mohawk Nation using a handful of Six Nation treaties to defend themselves, a federal court slapped them in the mouth and ruled against them, stating for the record that they were not Mohawks, but rather Saint Regis Indians. Perhaps Ransom will get his image carved into the White man's history, monuments and buildings just as Brant did.