Thursday, August 19, 2010
I Finally Got the Return Call, But They Won't Put It in Writing
I've mentioned previously on one of my comments that I called the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance to inquire on their "Indian Commerce" policies. Three weeks after my initial call I received a call back from the department's Office of Counsel. I asked what the State's policy is and would be after September 1st regarding Native to Native commerce and the sales and distribution of Native brands of tobacco products from territory to territory. The caller made it crystal clear that the State intends to stop any shipments of product that leave a reservation regardless of whether the product was produced or manufactured by Native people and regardless if the transaction is in the commission of trade between Native people on Native lands. When pressed where the State feels it has the right to interfere with Native to Native trade the caller suggested that there was case law that supported their position. I reminded her that the case law she refers to was specifically based on the premise that the tobacco sold by the Native retailers in Montana and Washington at the time had no value added to products by the Native people. Clearly this was no longer the case now that 70 - 80% of the product sold by Native retailers are Native brands and clearly a sustainable business can now exist entirely off those brands. The caller then suggested that the State would only consider value having been added if was done in the community that it was sold in. In other words; Native people could not manufacture a product and sell it to Native people from another Native territory without the State's regulation. When I continued to pressed her on the notion that the State would even stop, and indeed did so last week, a Seneca wholesaler from transporting a Native product from the Seneca Territory of Cattaraugus to the Seneca Territory of Allegany, she backed off some saying that the State would stop shipments going from one Nation to another. She said she couldn't comment on last week's seizure and speculated on various reasons that could have been in play.
The bottom line is that the State is so emboldened by new legislation and case law from places that are far from the territories and people of the Haudenosaunee (geographically and politically) that they are actually saying they will prohibit Native to Native commerce that doesn't comply with State law. I couldn't get the Office of Counsel to provide a written policy statement saying such because they don't want to use language that in any way addresses Native commerce distinct from State commerce. As far as the State is concerned our trade is their business.
We obviously cannot stand for this. We also cannot allow Native to Native commerce be reduced to a situation where only the tribes are allowed to conduct commerce under a concept of Nation to Nation commerce. This will be the ultimate sell out by tribal leadership and will make them complicit in criminalizing the private sector economies of our territories; the few that are left. Native people challenging the State's authority in front of white men under black robes is only slightly better than white men under white hoods. The laws these men live and judge by are as racist and outdated as the Klan. A system of laws that allows hundreds of distinct sovereign societies to be lumped together so that precedent can be established upon the weakest and imposed on those where no such ruling could be made on its own merits is no system at all. It is a sham.