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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Friday, October 23, 2009

Can They Really Be That Stupid?

It is amazing how many times you can hear a tribal, state or federal official say something stupid without anyone ever challenging their ignorance. A case in point was US Senator Charles, "Chuck", Schumer (D-NY) spitting out the old tired comments on the news about how Indians have no right to sell their products to non-Indians and that the state is losing millions, perhaps even billions to our illegal sales. Oh yeah, and there is the one about how the US Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that the state could collect taxes from our sales. The worse part about false comments like these is that they are not just said by state and federal officials, they are repeated by tribal councilors and their legal counsel as well.
My question is: are they really that stupid? After all these guys are educated, in fact most of them are lawyers. So why do they misquote and misinterpret laws, court rulings and basic social, political and legal points all the time. I honestly believe that they know what they are saying is wrong.
Chuck can't really believe it is illegal for us to market our regulatory advantages to consumers out of our territories. Every town, city, county, state and country work to develop and market trade and commerce advantages. He can't possibly be saying that his people can sell to our people, but we can't sell to them. Something else must be at play here.
The Governor can't be so stupid to suggest that the state law that allows everyone in New York to have in their possession up to 2 cartons of untaxed and unstamped cigarettes, allows those people the opportunity to buy those unstamped cigarettes anywhere available but from Native retailers. The State's first black governor can't be that racist.
Surely out of all those people who keep suggesting that there exists some landmark Supreme Court decision that allows New York State to interfere with Native commerce, that someone would actually read the case (DEPARTMENT OF TAXATION AND FINANCE OF NEW YORK et al. v. MILHELM ATTEA & BROS.). If just one of the television or print journalist that keeps referring to this case would read it then perhaps he would offer the correct interpretation which is that the non-native wholesaler, Attea, lost his challenge against the State where he claimed his license to do business with Indians, issued by the BIA, superceded State law. Sorry folks, nothing to see here. No "we got those damn Mohawks and Senecas" ruling here. Just another case where a bunch of overly assimilated Indians out west were beat up in their state courts and had their cases cited in a case that, at best, references us.(See the post; Attea is Not a Landmark Case Against Indians)
The bottom line is that while NY State may tax the purchases made by its residents for use in the state, it still can't tax our sales. Let's try saying it together. The State may be able to regulate the actions of its people (the purchase or use), but not the actions of our people (the sale). But again, let's be clear; the State allows all its people to purchase up to 2 cartons of unstamped cigarettes for use in the State. The burden to remit a tax for purchases beyond 2 cartons is and always has been on the consumer. The State even has a form for it (Form CG-15). Now a logical person would assume that if a New York resident could buy 2 cartons from North Carolina or the Philippines that he could certainly stop by the nearest Native retailer for that purchase as well.
So what about that Billion dollars the State wants and needs so desperately? Well as the governor's request to the US Attorneys for a threat assessment will reveal, it doesn't matter how much they inflate a revenue leakage number. Any attempt to shut down the Native cigarette business will cost money, not make it. There is neither a guarantee nor a likelihood that even if the State eliminated reservation sales all together without a fight that any thing close to the numbers the State claims to be losing would be realized. Driving consumers to out-of-state and black market sales will surely have a much bigger negative impact to the State than anything they imagine happens on our territories. Oh how the State must long for the days when only the Mob could deliver cheap cigarettes to consumers.
Getting back to the gullibility or complicity of tribal leaders. Just as I don't think the non-native voices weighing in on this subject are that stupid, I don't think the Native ones are either. Of course the only Native voices we are allowed to be heard are the tribal government voices. These guys are so conflicted they can't help but come across as ignorant. On one hand they want to kiss ass for a Casino in the Catskills. On the other they are trying to validate their existence as legitimate government officials by proving they can assert authority over their people. Their own self loathing will not allow them to admit the obvious; that they are powerless. The beauty of our sovereignty is that we are born with it. We don't win it in an election or have it granted to us by the federal or state government. Not one of these tribal councilors has the courage to say that every business on our land is a Nation business. Every Native retailer operates as a sovereign entity because our sovereignty is not vested in the state nor does it exist as a common right but rather an individual birthright. This simply doesn't seem sophisticated enough for tribal officials. They want to be just an Indian version of those who are trying to harm us. But the reality is that all the rhetoric from these guys means nothing. It is the People that the State is scared of. It is the People that will shut the Thruway down. It is the People that will block bridges. And it will be the People that will stand toe to toe with the police if the State tries to force its will on our territories. I doubt Jim Ransom or Barry Snyder will rank very high as a threat to the State. And certainly their attorneys, Dale White and Rob Porter will be looked at more as assets and team players of the State, definitely not a risk to them.
So what is going on here? Is it really just a case of these guys trying to repeat something enough times to make it appear true or is it all just posturing for something else? The other thing that Chuck mentioned the other night was how so many other "tribes" have entered into agreements with the states. If the States really had the right to shut us down why would they want a compact? I think it is too easy to jump to the conclusion that a Catskill casino is at the root of much of this. Gaming certainly has played a role in shifting control of our land and people to the states, but gaming isn't the end game; the control is. I believe that the Mohawk and Seneca People have been the symbol of resistance, not only for Native people in the US and Canada, but world wide. The fact that neither US law nor their enforcers can reconcile our existence is a significant thorn for them. There are plenty of those "tribes" that drank the Kool-aid and entered all kinds of compacts. While they spent the last few years regretting that decision our territories continued to fight and maintain a strong private sector economy. Perhaps they should be asked how things have worked out for them. In spite of the fact that gaming compacts were leapt at in Mohawk and Seneca territories, the State still has not been able to control the people, not even by proxy through the tribal councils. For those of us that have been at this for a long time we see a constant effort by the State and their tribal counter parts (although I question how counter they really are to the State) to wheel and deal. By doing so the tribal councils get more authority and power over Native People and their land(and often more wealth) and the people lose more distinction as Native people. The State gets revenue and that control they so desperately seek, albeit through the tribal councils. I have no use for any so-called tribal leader that would suggest to the people to let them handle it. That this is a Nation to Nation issue. Or that these compacts are proof or some kind of expression of the "Nation's" sovereignty. This is about our freedom. The Mohawk and Seneca People can't allow themselves to be manipulated into becoming a symbol for concession. Too many others count on us. There is a reason why New York hasn't been able to get tax compacts agreed to. Because we never gave authority to anyone to sell us out. We need to keep it that way! I don't think any of these guys are stupid enough to believe what they are saying is true, but I do believe they are stupid enough to think they know what they are doing.


Ohnkwe Ohnwe said...

Editorial in the NY Daily News
October 24, 2009

Send in the troopers: Paterson doesn't need the cavalry to stop Indian buttlegging

Gov. Paterson has appealed for federal help to combat rampant tax evasion by Indian cigarette dealers - anticipating, with good reason, that tribe members could respond with violence to a long-overdue crackdown.

Specifically, he asked three U.S. attorneys to aid with a "threat assessment" of the "likelihood of violence and civil unrest," and to give him "your operational commitment to help mitigate any disturbances that might occur in each of your districts if implementation were to occur."

While the Justice Department may have a role to play, the question must be asked: Why does the governor of New York, commander of 4,600 troopers, a force that is one of America's 10 largest, feel the need to ask the feds for help in enforcing his own laws?

In fact, the state police should be capable of sizing up the threat and mobilizing to address it.

In fact, this governor and, before him, Eliot Spitzer and, before him, George Pataki have cowered at the thought of putting an end to blatant criminality that is costing the state and city billions of dollars in lost tax revenue.

The potential for an uprising is real, as proven by riots in 1992 and 1997, when upstate tribe members threw burning tires onto the Thruway and battled with troopers. Even today, tribe officials give not-so-subtle hints that things will get ugly if New York insists on collecting lawfully owed taxes from their members.

"A strong reaction to further affronts on tribal sovereignty is inevitable," Oneida spokesman Mark Emery warned the Buffalo News. "We cannot control what individuals may choose to do."

No? Okay, then the troopers will have to take those individuals under control.

New York's reservations are major national hubs in the highly lucrative trade in untaxed cigarettes. Indian merchants illegally ship untaxed smokes by the millions to customers across the country - by mail-order through Internet sites and in the backs of smuggling vans.

Only in New York is this trade tolerated. Other states have negotiated revenue-sharing deals with tribes. Others track down Web site customers and bill them. Others enforce their laws while accommodating the Indian merchants' legitimate right to do tax-free business with tribe members.

However the feds respond, this is Paterson's fight to lead, backed by the troopers.

Ohnkwe Ohnwe said...

This is the redneck mentality we are up against. This isn't from the South where most Americans feel there is a monopoly on racism, this is New York City home of liberal enlightenment. This moron stops short of saying the troopers should beat us into submission. The last thing the state police want is to come here. It is easy for a bunch of closet racists in the city to bark out demands for action, they will never have to face us. Little do they know that we welcome the troopers being called in. Every dollar the state spends chasing the dollars they think we are keeping from them the better for us. So keep up the rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

pg:1 of 2
February 3, 1997
Ranatakiias Bill Clinton
President of the United States
White House
Washington, DC 20350
Greetings from the women of the Haudenosaunee. Haudenosaunee means the "People of the Longhouse" or in your language, Iroquois people. We are comprised of Six Nations, Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga and Tuscarora. As women of the Haudenosaunee we have been entrusted with the responsibility of the survival of our people. Any issues dealing with our way of life and anything concerning our children and future generations rests with us.
The women of the Haudenosaunee have been meeting to discuss issues concerning the imposition of taxation by New York State on our territories. We write to you today to request that you instruct the United States Congress and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior to abide by the Treaties and agreements that have been made between our Nations and to address these concerns.
The women of the Haudenosaunee are instructing you of the procedures and laws that we abide by. The Haudenosaunee are governed by the Kaianerekowa, the Great Law of Peace. Our forefathers, yours and ours, devised the Two Row Wampum and the treaties between the United States government and the Haudenosaunee. The United States Federal Government and New York State have violated and ignored many of the treaties and obligations that were made with our ancestors. Always remember that our forefathers did not offer to come and make these treaties and wampum’s with you; your forefathers came and made them with us because they recognized the power and authority of the Haudenosuanee here in North America.
The United Sates Federal Government and New York State Government have specifically violated Wampum #93 and Wampum #95 of the Great Law of Peace, which reads as follows:
"Wampum #93...The Referendum
The People decide on the Most Important Matters: Whenever an especially important matter or a great emergency is presented before our League Council and the nature of the matter affects the entire body of Five Nations, threatening their utter ruin, then the Chiefs of the League must submit the matter to the decision of their People and the decision of the People shall affect the decision of the League Council. This decision shall be a confirmation of the voice of the People."
"Wampum #95...
The Council Fires of The Women of Every Clan have the Same Rights as The Councils of the Men: The Women of every Clan of the Five Nations shall have a Council Fire ever burning in readiness for a Council of the Clan. When in their opinion it seems necessary for the interest of the People, they shall hold a Council, and their decision and recommendation shall be introduced before the Council of Chiefs of the War Chief for its consideration."
New York State has imposed a gag order on these secret negotiations, negotiations which have been taking place behind locked doors. They have tried to force agreements for the taxation without the knowledge of the Haudenosaunee. Some of our People were escorted out of a meeting site on December 18 and 19, 1996, in Syracuse, New York. These meetings were attended by a U.S. federal mediator. According to our way of life, the leaders of the Haudenosaunee carry the word of the People to any negotiations. The People meet in Clans, they are informed of the issue at hand by the Clan Mother and the selected representatives of each Clan. The Haudenosaunee way would be to have many meetings to inform the People of the issues to be decided, never to impose a gag order. The People would then empower their leaders with specific instructions to safeguard the Haudenosaunee and the Great Law of Peace.

Anonymous said...

con't pg 2 0f 2
Greetings from the women of the Haudenosaunee
You have also violated the Two Row Wampum which, in its essence, speaks of our People living on our land together and agreeing not to interfere in each others ways, laws and customs. That "interference" is exactly what is being done now. We will discuss with you and your delegates these violations and other issues at hand.
Many of the People currently recognized by the United States Government/Bureau of Indian Affairs are those who have alienated themselves from the Haudenosaunee way of life and not sanctioned by the Women's Council and the People of the Haudenosaunee. If the United States federal government and New York State negotiate with any of these people, without the consent of the Women's Council and the People of the Haudenosaunee, the negotiations will be invalid, illegal and will be opposed to any length necessary. These People have lost their way and cannot speak for all the Haudenosaunee.
Haudenosaunee People are non-taxable People. It is our People who will guide you to proper channels to resolve problems between our two parties; the United States of America and the Haudenosaunee.
We are informing you that your Supreme Court decisions do not apply to our People. The Two Row Wampum Agreement provides that this cannot be; we must discuss the interpretation of our agreements.
We are prepared to meet with you and your people to try to peacefully resolve some of the violations and the issues at hand. We expect an immediate response because of the urgency of this issue. We are providing you with a list of our People to contact.
Women's Council of the Haudenosaunee
signed - Giennohgohs
Mariann May Smith Doctor
signed - Shirley Snyder
cc: Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Governor George Pataki, Joseph Heath, Esq.

2009 UPDATE Note: The position of the Haudenosaunee Women's Council remains the same.

Anonymous said...

"A few days after a South Dakota tribe signed a recent tax compact, the state showed their hand and
demanded that tribal tobacco products be removed from the tribal store because they are now illegal. So
in one stroke, South Dakota got its extra MSA payments, made a competitor to its tobacco company
“partners” illegal, and reduced the incentive for customers to come to the reservation to buy cigarettes.
This tribe recently cancelled the tax agreement.
The tobacco compacts no longer make economic sense and have instead evolved into a tool for
economic exploitation. Even worse, they are now used to dictate what a tribe can sell on its own land. I
seriously doubt the states will share the MSA payments, especially since they are now so dependent on
the money. I believe it is time to wake up to what is happening and to sell our own products under tribal
taxes again. To be honest, I can’t believe I ever thought that outsourcing our tax system to the state was
a good idea.
Lance Morgan is the CEO of Ho-Chunk, Inc., the development corporation of the Winnebago Tribe of
Nebraska, and is a partner in the Indian law firm of Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP. Contact him at "

Anonymous said...

no they are not that stupid, what they do is encouraged by the past many years of alledged Indian Council governments allowing them to do what ever they wish and not acting like a true Indigenous government. If you dont see yourself as a true sovereign then you cant act as one who is. Beyond that- the true government of the people has not been in operation since the law of blood has been ignored by most of our people whove stepped all over each other in the rush towards being "Civilized"
That and the band councils who claim to represent Indigenous peoples.
Staiyu aya wahya anikituwahgi

Anonymous said...

Kaianerehkowa is the people and their voice...Its is the women who carries the voice of the people and pass that voice thru the cheifs...May I say nothing is valid until the people agree so then verifiyed thru the Clan Mother then the Clan Cheifs all 50 of them...Yes it is true the women hold all titles to land and cheifs and to the unborn but the Kaianerehkowa is about equality...

kmkoblensky said...

Chuck Schummer talks with his foot in his mouth..New york and all the States need to recognize that the they exist on STOLEN really is no big deal for them to come forward and speak the truth //\\greedy power mongers come in all shapes..forms and together..protect what is left..clean air..clean water and quality food..the plants and animals hold equal rights..sick to death of crap ass politicans!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

chairman Moa of the people of the yellow emperor, [China]; saw his nation infiltrated and manipulated by the virus we call EuroAmerica and its parntage {European Crown heads]. Rather than capitulate and mediate and negotiate through the mazz of lies and subtrefuge that the define the way of Civilization [as defined by the European] he chose to cleanse "The body"
Ridding the body of its ever spreading desease growing like a fungus choking [our] lives.
Many of our past fighters for our way of life atempted to do the same such as Pontiac, Tecumseh, Harjo, Goyathlay, Tsiyogunnessi [draging canoe], all fell short because of our own peoples weakness for "European Civilization" and because we as a people have become to complacent and manipulated.
The day when we as a people stand to fight to regain our homes is when we shall either finaly die totally off the face of mother earth or-win back our freedom, This day shall inevitably arrive.
Staiyu aya aginali wahya ani kitiwahgi.

Tweety said...

"liberal enlightenment" gotta love it.

Schumer and Paterson will be unpleasant memories soon enough, and I wouldn't expect any real threats on the horizon unless the Feds step in which won't be for a long, long time if ever.