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, November 20, 2009

What next?

Well it took all of about two minutes for law makers in Washington to push the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act through committee and on to the full Senate for vote. I have written extensively on the PACT Act already so I won't belabor the point again.
Native People are right to be pissed. The racist attitudes that prevail in Albany and Washington are consistent and historic in their nature. All those Hope and Change Indians who fell in love with Barack Obama will have an opportunity to see their confidence betrayed when he signs the bill into law, eliminating jobs and crushing the Native economies that have depended on the USPS for delivering legal products for their customers. The reality is that this 44th Rahnatakaias should at least make a token gesture and veto this bill. The Senate has enough votes to override it anyway. Failure to do so will demonstrate how meaningless our lives are to him and his agenda.
So where do we go from here? Do we take any lessons away from any of this? I hope as we go forward that our people can set aside our differences to stand together and fight for our issues. This time we saw Philip Morris standing side by side with health organizations to endorse and, in some cases, literally write legislation against us while we couldn't demonstrate enough unity to pull Marlboros from our shelves. To all those who expected someone else to fight for them, whether it was their Nation or tribal council or their richer neighbor down the road, I hope the next battle pulls you in. We don't need leadership, we need participation. A room full of tribal councilors and prominant businessmen can't compare to the 5,000 who marched on Albany in '97 and why not 10,000. The next time I hope that rather than criticizing how the battle was fought by others or anyone thinking that they knew far too much to consult with others, that we can work together for a common cause and recognize who the enemy is.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Shutting Down Native Mail Order Tobacco Sales Is Misguided

I've read the reports, I've read the testimonies and I've read the studies. It seems to me that the obvious is being missed in the effort to legislate Native businesses out of existence. Neither the US Postal Service nor the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have the resources or the appetite to make the avoidance of tobacco tax a priority and neither agency considers Native sellers of tobacco to be the criminal element in the contraband tobacco industry. According to the ATF only 1% of their current case load and 2% of their overall budget involves alcohol and tobacco. They are more concerned with violent crimes associated with guns and explosives. The USPS also has higher priorities such as narcotics, child pornography, explosives, exploitation of the elderly and the delivery of malicious substances, including anthrax. The hype over organized crime and revenue loss is made by politicians not by those charged with the responsibility of law enforcement. A study done by the American Wholesale Marketers Association found that the majority of Internet tobacco sales were being done by foreign enterprises. These operations pay no US taxes what so ever and contribute nothing to the US economy. They operate outside the reach of US law enforcement and have no standards for operation. The Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act will drive the remote sales to these foreign enterprises. The act provides more prosecutorial tools to shut down operations within the reach of US law enforcement but does little to change things for those operating off shore. The ATF reports do little to associate Native retailers with any organized criminal element, particularly where Native sales are clearly end user sales. Patrick Fleenor with the D.C. based Tax Foundation argues that Native retailers do more to cut out the legs of organized crime and the black market trade than law enforcement. Where black market and foreign sellers operate in the shadows, Native retailers are open and transparent. While respecting the privacy of their customers, their sources and supply are well documented and they operate as legitimate responsible enterprises. Native retailers recognize that there is a criminal element in the tobacco industry at all levels. Over taxing and tax disparity creates the environment for it. Native retailers compete against that element whether it is the criminals at Philip Morris or gangs and street thugs pushing smuggled or counterfeit products. Take our people out of the mix and see what you are left with. Philip Morris pretends to take the high road promoting and writing legislation here in the US for bought and paid for politicians while being called out and fined for smuggling in Europe and laundering drug money in Columbia. When a consumer can't come to a Native retailer anymore, where does he turn? Philip Morris isn't concerned whether their product sell for $10 a pack with $6 or $8 worth of tax applied or for $5 on a street corner as long as they get the sales back that they have been losing to Native sales of Native products. At some point the puppets that sit in Albany and Washington need to recognized the mess they are creating. Not one of them has considered what happens if our legitimate businesses are pulled out of the broad market. Anyone who believes you can pull your hand out of a bucket of dirty water and hope that only clean water will fill in where your hand was, is a fool.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Blog Reader, Pridebourne is Back with Agreement and Dissention

Pridebourne's defense of the PACT Act and open resentment to Native businesses make for a spirited debate on the subject. While it is disappoiting that someone, who claims to be Native, is so against our own people; I welcome the diverse opinion as an opportunity to provide more information in my response. These are some of the comments from the earilier post; The Feds Continue to Move Against Native Retailers.
Pridebourne said...
I agree with your take on "walk-in" purchases, especially when they are allowed two cartons at a time. The PACT Act does not regulate walk-in purchases. The PACT Act does regulate state to state commerce. The US "Postal Service is required by law to provide delivery service to the American public when mailable matter is properly presented." The mail-order/internet sales are not "walk-in" purchases, purchased made on our territory. Although the operator may be Seneca, and their operation is in Seneca Nation, their mailable matter is not properly presented as such. The operators utilize NY addresses and, possibly, NY/USA based servers to host their site and transactions. (States have been making strides towards recover internet gambling revenue based on the location of the user or server) Besides the advertised Seneca-branding, operators are representing themselves as domestic NY operations shipping to another state. Even under these circumstances i would agree with your take that it's allowed, since, the US postal service is not required to inspect the packages, other foreign countries can do it, and the importers are required to reporting their imports(over two cartons) to the state. I agree that the responsibility is on the consumer, which is why our businesses have to stop crying foul, racism, discrimination, everytime their exploitive models are questioned. Claiming sovereignty than operating as just another domestic business of NY harms legitimately sovereign businesses. Exporters should respect foreign nations policies.
November 13, 2009 11:30 AM

Ohnkwe Ohnwe said...
It is not that consumers are only allowed to purchase two cartons, it is that up to two cartons are exempt from the state use tax (in New York). Whether a purchase is of the "walk-in" variety or a remote or non face-to-face purchase, the point of purchase is still at our retail establishments. Although the definition of "point of purchase" has been batted around, the generally accepted definition is the place where either the funds are collected for the transaction or where the data for payment is collected. It isn't an issue of the use of the mail or internet or phone. It is where the data is physically being collected. Call centers that are not on our land probably cross a defensible line, but server location or definition of cyberspace are irrelevant.
The foul that our businesses and others are crying is the attempt by the state and feds to shift that burden of responsibilty for taxes to our people on our land. There are three issue that never quite get addressed.
1. Why should our businesses be forced to bear the overhead of the state's tax collection on their people.
2. The states and even some federal authorities are trying to claim that all sales to non-natives are taxable. New York does not openly acknowledge that every person in the state can legally use and possess up to two catons at a time with no tax liabilty. New York hides that fact and goes further to imply they have the right to collect taxes on purchases made by out of state consumers as well.
3. The PACT Act clearly is designed to shut down consumers from using the USPS to deliver products purchase from Native retailers. The states have many other mechanisms they could employ to stop non-native remote sales. These tools are not used because they would leave our retailers untouched. The PACT Act specifically makes cigarettes and other tobacco products used predominantly by the middle class non-mailable (products such as cigars and pipe tobbaco that cater to the wealthier clientele would still be mailable). The states need federal legislation to shut us down. It doesn't matter how universal they try to make the law appear, it still is design to disproportionately effect Native business.
November 13, 2009 12:27 PM

Friday, November 6, 2009

"It is important to note that, under current law, cigarettes and tobacco products are legal and mailable"

October 27, 2009

The United States Postal Service appreciates the opportunity to report to you on the measures we have taken, in cooperation with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, to address the matter the Committee has advised us about regarding the distribution of cigarettes through the U.S. mail for which state taxes are ultimately not paid. We affirm unequivocally that the Postal Service has no intention of serving as a vehicle to further illegal activity. We also hope to assist the Committee in its important work by providing a more complete picture of the complexities surrounding this matter.
Initially, it is important to note that, under current law, cigarettes and tobacco products are legal and mailable matter and, therefore, the mailing of cigarettes and other tobacco products is not illegal. In general, the Postal Service is required by law to provide delivery service to the American public when mailable matter is properly presented and the appropriate postage is paid. In that regard, the Postal Service is subject to the statutory nondiscrimination principles of Title 39, U.S. Code, which prevent us from unduly discriminating against users of the mails. Thus, the Postal Service simply cannot deny its services to Postal Service customers on a discretionary basis.
The Postal Service is also mindful of the sanctity and security of the mail, upon which all users of the mail place great value. Generally, the contents of a mailpiece can only be determined by opening and inspecting its contents. Mailable matter sent using First-Class Mail, Priority Mail, or Express Mail service is subject to requirements that it be sealed against inspection. A federal search warrant obtained pursuant to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal procedure, or the consent of the sender or addressee, is a prerequisite to opening mail sealed against inspection. Therefore, for these types of mail, a federal search warrant or consent of the sender or addressee would be needed to open the mailpiece.
There are also a number of practical limitations on our conduct about which this Committee should be aware. First, as the Jenkins Act has been explained to us, the cigarette excise taxes which are required to be paid are not reported to the destination states at the time the cigarettes are mailed; rather, reports of sales may be reported to the destination states well after the shipment is delivered. The Postal Service respectfully suggests that postal employees have no way of ascertaining whether the required taxes have been or will be paid when the mail is entered, nor do we believe that the Postal Service should have a role in making those determinations.
Further, even assuming that the Postal Service could seek to prevent certain customers from tendering mail containing cigarettes for which taxes will ultimately not be paid, because mail matter is usually entered in the absence of a contractual relationship with the sender, mailers can circumvent any such restrictions by simply tendering mail sealed against inspection and claiming it contains contents other than cigarettes (e.g., cigars, rolling paper, novelties, etc.) or by redirecting the mail through a third-party intermediary.
One additional challenge for the Postal Service concerns the allocation of resources. Nationwide, the Postal Inspection Service, which is the law enforcement arm of the Postal Service, has approximately 1,450 inspectors. Their work involves a broad range of activities such as protecting Postal Service employees and property, narcotics trafficking, child pornography, explosives in the mail, mail theft, and exploitation of the elderly through mail fraud. The Postal Inspection Service also responds to thousands of incidents each year involving unknown substances found in the mailstream, which is not taken lightly in the aftermath of the fatal Anthrax attacks of 2001. While we understand the State of New York has significant concerns with regard to the collection of taxes for cigarettes sold to purchasers within the state, we must balance the Postal Service’s resources directed at this activity in light of many other pressing priorities.
Notwithstanding these complexities, the Postal Service is committed to working with state, local, and federal officials to combat illegal tobacco transactions. The Postal Service has taken several steps using our existing authority to address this issue, such as issuing an internal policy on dealing with business customers who mail cigarettes, information sharing with foreign posts, and collaborating with ongoing law enforcement initiatives to prosecute illegal activity.
Recently, the Postal Service re-issued its internal policy titled, "Dealing with Business Customers Mailing Cigarettes." The document was disseminated to our sales and customer service employees and instructs them to adhere to the policy when dealing with mailers of cigarettes. The policy states that the Postal Service cannot knowingly permit the mails to be used to further activities deemed unlawful by state and federal authorities concerning the distribution of untaxed cigarettes. In that regard, if a Postal Service employee acquires reliable information (such as information from law enforcement, copies of the mailers’ solicitations, or website promotions) that a mailer is using the mails to send cigarettes to consumers for which no destination state excise tax is paid the employee is instructed to do the following:
• Refrain from soliciting new business from the mailer.
• Refrain from placing routine sales calls or making site visits to the mailer.
• Refer any inquiries by the mailer about the acceptability of untaxed or undertaxed cigarettes to the Pricing and Classification Service Center (PCSC).
• Advise the Division of the Inspection Service serving their area if they acquire information about routine shipments of untaxed or undertaxed cigarettes to consumers.
Another step the Postal Service took was to collaborate with experts from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATFE), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), State Department, and Treasury Department in the development of a comprehensive listing of relevant restrictions on the importation of cigarettes into the United States. We led the effort on this initiative because state attorneys general and federal law enforcement officials had previously provided information demonstrating that there had been considerable growth in unlawful cigarette sales and importation practices associated with cigarettes shipped from abroad.
As a result of the collaboration with other agencies, in April 2006, the United States was able to distribute a circular to postal administrations throughout the world to enable them to educate their customers about the requirements for sending cigarettes to the United States. The circular explains that the importation of cigarettes into the United States is generally prohibited, and that imported cigarettes would be subject to forfeiture and destruction. It also contains detailed descriptions of importation requirements.
A permanent record of these restrictions is now contained in our prohibited items country listing, which foreign posts use to identify prohibitions for traffic destined to the United States. We believe that by updating the listing, we may stem some illegal traffic from abroad, thereby aiding law enforcement and tax collection agencies.
On another front, the Postal Service routinely cooperates with federal and state law enforcement officials to reduce illegal cigarette and tobacco sales and facilitate the prosecution of such activity. For several years, we have had a series of meetings and correspondence with the state attorneys general, individually and through the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), in which we exchanged information on the scope of the problem and discussed ways of working together to address illicit sales of cigarettes.
We have had similar interactions with the Justice Department and have participated in dialogues with U.S. Attorneys, the ATFE, and others to develop strategies for dealing with illegal tobacco sales. The following summaries describe how we have worked with these entities and other officials to facilitate enforcement:
• In 2006, Postal Inspectors worked with the ATFE and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate a scheme involving cigarette taxes. The investigation determined that the scheme ran from 2002–2007. The defendant in the matter defrauded the States of New York, Rhode Island, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Arizona by unlawfully distributing cigarettes that came from the Seneca Nation in New York State. In July 2008, the defendant entered a plea to information in U.S. District Court, Western District of New York, and is scheduled to be sentenced in January 2010. In this case, a list of the cigarette purchasers was provided to New York tax officials. Based on the information shared with State authorities, the City of New York filed a civil complaint in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against the promoter (City of New York against Lloyd Long, No. 08-CV-9052). On March 12, 2009, a Judgment and Order of Default was entered against the promoter in the amount of $1,311,390.
• In an investigation in New Jersey, Postal Inspectors discovered that individuals had used postal money orders to purchase $4.5 million worth of cigarettes, structuring the transactions to avoid detection by state tax officials. The targets of the investigation purchased cigarettes over the Internet from Indian reservations in New York, transported the cigarettes to New Jersey, and sold them in restaurants and stores in New Jersey without paying the state sales tax. The Postal Inspection Service served as the lead agency on the investigation, cooperating with the ATFE, New Jersey Department of Tax and Finance, New Jersey State Police, and IRS. In 2007, five individuals were arrested and charged with money laundering, as well as violations of the Jenkins Act.
• The Postal Inspection Service referred the activities of three members of one family to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office which ultimately led to a Grand Jury indictment in September 2009. The family members allegedly evaded paying Massachusetts excise tax by illegally selling unstamped cigarettes. The Postal Inspection Service had tracked a shipment from a Seneca Nation tobacco distributor to one of the family members. The joint investigation in this case also involved assistance from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (MDOR) and ATFE. In August 2008, the joint investigation executed search warrants that seized more than 12,000 cigarettes in packs that were not properly marked with state excise tax stamps. It is estimated that the alleged activities defrauded Massachusetts of nearly $163,000 in unpaid cigarette excise taxes.
• In another case, the Postal Inspection Service along with ATFE and MDOR, provided assistance to the Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Attorney’s General’s office by executing search warrants in January of 2009. This resulted in seizure of a shipment of unstamped cigarettes that were sent to a convenience store retailer from the Seneca Nation. In September 2009, the retailer was indicted by a Grand Jury for knowingly selling cigarettes that were not properly stamped with the Massachusetts excise tax between September 2007 and January 2009. It is estimated that the retailer defrauded Massachusetts of over $150,000 in unpaid taxes.
The Postal Inspection Service has provided similar assistance to law enforcement agencies on other cases in New York and New Jersey, which are the two busiest states for these activities, as well as in Alaska, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The Postal Inspection Service has a number of other ongoing investigations that involve untaxed cigarettes obtained from Native American reservations as well as counterfeit cigarettes being imported into the United States.
In closing, be assured the Postal Service remains committed to collaborating with law enforcement to deal with the problem of distribution of untaxed cigarettes through the mail. Within our existing authority and resources, we have taken steps to assist ongoing law enforcement efforts and will continue to do our part.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The PACT Act Debate is Back

This is a comment I posted back in May in response to a comment that challenged whether the PACT Act was anti-Indian legislation. When is a Fight Worth Fighting?
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.

The Feds Continue to Move Against Native Retailers

View the post from May 22, 2009 and the comments that follow.
The PACT Act Will Not Necessarily End the Native Tobacco Business, It Will Criminalize It!
The side bar has a link to a Call to Action flier and information sheet. Mail it, email it and hand it out to all customers of our Native retail outlets.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Testimony of Jed Morey, of the Long Island Press, to the New York State Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations

October 27, 2009
New York is in dire financial straits and its politicians are seeking refuge through taxation to cover up their own negligence. They claim that the sale of cigarettes to non-natives from the reservation is unjustly enriching Native Americans and is contrary to established law in New York. Of course none of this was a real issue until our government ran out of money. So while the state is struggling to maintain solvency, several reservations are gaining economic momentum. In essence, you tolerate them so long as they’re poor but now that the tables have turned your true colors are showing.

When billions of dollars from the landmark tobacco settlements were dispersed among the 46 states enjoined in the lawsuit, New York did what it does best: took the funds in a one shot, wrapped them up in a fancy Wall Street financial instruments and bonded out our future. To make up for the further budget shortfalls the state hiked taxes on cigarettes and artificially inflated the price of tobacco thereby creating a disparity in pricing on and off the reservation and causing a rift between retailers and the tribes. New York continued to maintain its pattern of reckless spending and found itself on the wrong side of this recession.

Long before the cigarette industry was booming on reservations, Indian nations sold cigarettes as a means of basic survival. Now they are being persecuted for succeeding. Unfortunately, the very unsympathetic status cigarettes hold in our society casts a dark cloud over the critical issues of taxation and jurisdiction and places in doubt the immutable right of self determination these tribes enjoy.

Instead of working with tribal leaders the government inquires about the possibility of obtaining federal law enforcement support against these nations and crafts unilateral policies that directly affect tribal lands. But without tribal consent these unilateral policies are unenforceable and exist in a vacuum; no different than attempting to legislate activities within France or Canada.

Mr. Benjamin who testified today actually introduced legislation to abolish the Poospatuck reservation writing that it “seems to be nothing more than a criminal enterprise.” Mr. Benjamin would exile a people who Judge Matsumoto, in her October 8th decision of this year, found to have “met its burden of establishing, by a preponderance of the evidence” that they are recognized as belonging to a sovereign nation. What Mr. Benjamin and this panel don’t understand is that the very nature of sovereignty, by definition, holds that no legislative decision, judicial decision or executive decision outside reservation land has any bearing on activity conducted on reservation territory. The Supreme Court of the United State of America has repeatedly ruled that Indian Nations are sovereign nations recognized by, but not governed by, the Constitution of the United States.

In the end this is not about taxes, bootlegging or the black market. This is an issue of sovereignty and you are out of your jurisdiction, out of your league and out of your mind if you think these nations or its leaders will give up their rights with respect to it.
So before you examine the operations of the Longhouse, I suggest you turn your attention to cleaning up your own house.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Hearing

On October 27, 2009 the New York State Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations held a hearing in New York City to discuss enforcement of State taxes on Native sales of tobacco products.

OK then. That was interesting. Without question the Senecas stole the show. JC Seneca did a fair enough job delivering the message that we would neither be forced to collect State tax nor pay it. A few opportunities were missed, but by and large the ignorance and racism demonstrated by those that assemble in Albany was illuminated and pushed back. I think we were hurt in the areas of unity with other Native communities both by the words that were said and the fact that the Seneca entourage only stayed for the SNI testimony. Everyone knew the SNI would put a major emphasis on their regulatory system. In doing so it was clear that the SNI representatives would be trying to draw a distinction from the other Native communities. That could not have been made more obvious with the their boasting of their prohibition against conducting business with non federally recognized tribes. This was particularly offensive given the fact that the hearing was in New York City which is in the back yard of those Native communities on Long Island that do not have BIA recognition and, as a city, has been leading the fight against all of us. I am sure that I am not alone in my concern over the Seneca Nation participating in joint sting operations with State and federal regulators against our own and then bragging about it here.

Another opportunity was missed in addressing the Attea case. The SNI practically stipulated that the case supported the State's position rather than challenging its interpretation. See Attea is Not a Landmark Case Against Indians posted here back on April 21st.

The State senators seemed to be obsessed with the absence of court interpretations of treaties and indeed the SNI representatives also seemed too focused on treaties as the source of our rights and liberties. While the State tries to challenge any right or freedom that is not explicitly defined in treaty, the voices from our side failed to turn the table and assert that our sovereignty is not established in treaties and that it is the State that cannot establish any legal foundation for taxing us. These are not "Indian" treaties. They are US treaties. They were concocted by them, they were drafted by them and they were ratified by them. While all of these US treaties went to lengths defining what would remain of our lands, they merely affirmed and acknowledged our inherent and obviously pre-existing rights to and on our lands. They gave us nothing that could remotely be defined as "treaty rights", rather they defined the obligations that the US would incur for the transfers of lands. Included in those obligations were health and education services, certain payments and security against foreign and domestic oppression. Our right to trade and commerce as well as any other activity commercial or otherwise was never surrendered to anyone. It apparently never occurred to the State Senate committee members that the reason there is no New York State court cases relating to these issues is because, ultimately the State knows it can't win and we wouldn't concede if they did. There seems to be no sense by those who cannot understand that we don't just choose to rely on our rights as they are handed down through generations rather than relying on a white man in a black robe to tell us, but that it is our obligation. This obligation is to those that will come after us and it is to keep others from imposing their will on our people.

In an effort to appear cooperative at some level there also seemed to be too much concession on other tax issues. When pressed about income and other taxes there was no mention of those that challenge those tax obligations. It is not a broadly accepted notion that some taxes apply while others don't. Even many of those that pay certain taxes, do it under protest and look to the day that we are better situated to fight those as well. I think it is difficult to find any Native person who actually believes that any State of federal taxes should ever be levied against us.

It was encouraging to hear a few State senators go on the record supporting our position. It was not missed by anyone that the clearest and most unequivocal support came from one of the only black Senators, Senator Adams, at the hearing. Senator George Maziarz should also be commended for clarifying several points that were being mischaracterized and for standing up to a fellow Republican Senator (Golden) with his ignorant rants that demonstates some of the arrogance and racism that gathers in Albany. Senator Maziarz was also clear in his support and, as a Senator, offered the only first hand knowledge and genuine concern for the Native people living near the district he represents (WNY). I was also impressed by the comments of Jed Morey, a writer from the Long Island Press. Everyone should take the opportunity to review his brief statement. It is worthy of sharing and most of the Native people that attended left before his opportunity to speak.

It should be noted that while some travelled from Seneca territory to New York, a small dedicated group of predominantly young men tended a fire beside the New York State Thruway where it passes through the Seneca territory of Cattaraugus. Signs, placards and flags, including several Warrior flags were displayed for motorist and passersby to observe. The number of horns blown in support of the Native position on this issue indicated the support is wide. The fire was maintained through the night as were the constant sounding of support from the Thruway motorists. It is an easy judgement to make that far more people witnessed the demonstration on the side of the Thruway than will ever hear the rhetoric espoused at the hearing. All those who put in time at the fire should be commended.