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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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We Don't Need Leadership; We Need Participation

I have had this title posted on the top of my blog for several months. It couldn't be a more appropriate expression now. Tomorrow the people will show themselves. In Tuscarora the people will continue what they started yesterday, standing out on the street making themselves seen and heard. In Cattaraugus the people will gather at the Big Indian and at Native Pride. There too the people will be seen and heard. Some will grab the microphone, I may myself, but don't for a minute think that anyone is any more important than anyone else. We may not always agree, and that is OK. We aren't soldiers all marching in step looking to some fearless leader. We are the People. Before we were Senecas and Mohawks we were "The People of the Mountains" and "The People of the Land of Flint". We were "The People of the Marshlands" and "The People of the Hills. We were "The People Where the Stones Stand" and we were "The People of the Cypress". We weren't 5 or 6 Nations nor were we 50 or 52 Chiefs. We were the People of the Longhouse. We need to stop looking for a savior, for the One with all the answers, for a leader. We need to step up and get involved. I have another favorite saying: "The best way to prevent the abuse of authority is to not give it; the second best way is to take it back". This isn't necessarily a slap at tribal government, I'm talking about the State, but if the shoe happens to fit; wear it. At times such as these we have three choices: we can do nothing, we can expect others to fight for us or we can all do our share. Showing up for a rally or a demonstration isn't exactly hard work and no one is really expecting conflict, at least not tomorrow. Certainly no one will be putting their life on the line. Stand up and be accounted for. See some friends and make some new ones. No one needs to lead a charge.

We don't need leadership; we need participation.

Friday, August 27, 2010

More Provocation as the Deadline for the State's Interference in Native Business Nears

This sign hangs on a front lawn of a residence on the Territory of the Tonawanda Senecas. Last week two New York State Troopers Pulled up to the sign, got out of their car, pulled their weapons and posed for each other to take pictures of themselves with the sign behind them. They packed up and sped off when they were approached by residents. Real brave, guys! The property owner called the Trooper barracks where the Major assured her he would look into it and deal with the officers appropriately. He also suggested that they keep this between them so as to not make too much of it. A couple of nights later as some women were enjoying a quiet Tonawanda night when a New York State Trooper car sped by the same residence with engine racing and gravel flying as they cruised down Bloomingdale Road.
The rural nature of Tonawanda alone make a State Trooper presence unnecessary. There are only three reasons to go to Tonawanda; you live there, you have friends there or you shop there. State officials do not live there, they have no friends there and their business is not welcome. The sign could not be clearer.
The only thing as clear as the sign is the intent of some of these cowboys to participate in the State's on-going provocation of Native people. Invariably as tensions rise intelligence falls. You see and hear it in the words of prominent political figures like Mike Bloomberg suggesting the brandishing of shotguns to show who's boss or comments from the State governor acknowledging the potential for violence and even death but quoting for the newspapers, "There will be quite an uprising and protest to this but I am going to maintain this policy." And now, almost like answering the call to Bloomberg's call to "cowboy up" against the Indians, certain Troopers are willing to show their ignorance.
The best way for both the Native people, who will be sure to respond to the State's aggression, and the State Police, who will be used as the State's pawns, to ensure their own safety would be for them to form a somewhat unholy alliance where both sides agree to make as big, as spectacular and as expensive, while entirely peaceful, a demonstration of the State's futile efforts as possible. Everyone with their Warrior shirts and flags; flex your muscle and show your strength and resolve while you boys in the blue cars; bring entirely too many of yourselves to our reservation borders, collect your overtime and "hazard" pay, spend every dime of your State paid per diems and let's let the fools in Albany wallow in their stupidity.

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.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Submission from an Anonymous Reader

Judge Arcara’s ruling is in. The glimmer of hope is distinguished. It really should come as no surprise that once again, and for hundreds of years, the Native American Indian has not be given a favorable decision by the white man’s court.
As if to add insult to injury, yet again, bumbling Bloomberg is suggesting that State officials need to put on cowboy hats and use shotguns this time, when asked about the possible violence which may come to pass after this ruling. This could be likened to the “show of the rifle” and to the usually peaceful native, this is a great violation of the universal Indian code of conduct. Bloomberg has shown himself to be an untrustworthy, dishonest adversary.
Have we really come no farther than the 1800’s when the court of New York was heard to say, “ Let us forget once and forever the word 'Indian', and all that it signifies"?
Are we to hear again, the words of general Sherman when he was quoted as saying, “ the only good Indian is a dead Indian”?
Or even the words of President Teddy Roosevelt who would not go as far as to repeat the above, but said, “ I don’t go as far as to think that the only good Indian is a dead Indian, but I believe nine out of ten are and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely".
This USA has done nothing but rob these people since we set foot in the Americas and it continues everyday. The white people wanted the Natives to take care of themselves but, not too good. They never wanted them to do too well. The State of New York has their hands out ready for the casino earnings but that isn’t even enough they also want to heap State taxes on their tobacco. The natives didn’t create the mess this State and country are in but they are being asked to remedy the situation at the cost of their sovereign rights. Shame on the people of American, who cry, ”cultural diversity”, but would forsake the very founders of this land.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

New York State and the U.S. Federal Government Are Provoking Native Conflict

As politicians and news outlets paint a picture of potential violent conflicts with Native people it is important to put things in their proper perspective or at very least consider the Native one. Should you find yourself backed up on the New York State Thruway or any other major highway that cuts through a Native community or barraged with news reports of stand-offs or conflict between Native people and law enforcement, consider the events of the past year before judging the cause and ask yourself who do these State and federal politicians really think they are serving by creating this conflict.
Last year, in Mohawk Territory, U.S. Customs blocked vehicle access to a section of Akwesasne because Canadian Border Services abandoned their check point on the Mohawk’s Cornwall Island when they were denied permission to bring weapons into the Mohawk community. The river became the only means for residents of the island to access food, general supplies and basic services. Kids were forced onto the river just to go to school. This year the U.S. Coast Guard rammed a boat carrying two young men in an attempt to force them to report their travel from the island to the south shore of the river. Both boys were injured; one of the permanently disabled. Shipments of raw tobacco have been unlawfully seized enroute to Native manufacturers in Akwesasne and the U.S Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms claims to be bringing indictments down on cigarette manufacturers there for operating without a U.S. license.
In Seneca Territory, remote sellers of tobacco products have been under attack by federal law makers who under charges that the Native retailers have been putting cigarettes in the hands of children, robbing money from state coffers and promoting terrorism passed legislation that has begun wiping out as many as 3000 jobs and has already cut the Seneca Nation’s revenue from their retailers to 40% of what it was prior to the legislation. Last week the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance seized a truck carrying Native product shipped by a Native wholesaler from one Seneca territory to Native retailers in another Seneca territory. The State, emboldened by this new federal legislation now believes it can interfere with Native to Native trade even as it proposes shutting off its State licensed wholesalers from supplying Native retailers. On September 1st the State intends to wipe out the remaining Native tobacco trade that has thrived for 30 years and has been the foundation of the economies of every community of the Six Nations.
Last month the U.S. State Department hosted consultations with Native people in Washington D.C. to gather comments and concerns regarding the United State’s position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The current position has been a total rejection of the Declaration since 2007 and we are told that position is now being reconsidered. At issue is the legally binding nature of such an international agreement and the conflict presented by the U.S. “domestication” of Native issues and conflicts. Domestication is a fancy word for forcing Native people into U.S. courts and under U.S. authority. A week after the State Department put on their show for the “Indigenous Peoples” in Washington they attempted to “domesticate” the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team by refusing to recognize their Haudenosaunee passports. Great Britain was hosting the FIL World Lacrosse Championship Tournament and refused to issue travel visas to the descendants of the game’s founders unless they carried a recognized passport that could ensure their re-entry to the United States.
Domestication was the same rationale that developed the concept of “Kill the Indian; save the man”. It was also the means used to throw out the Cayuga land claim and, just last week, the Oneida claim as well. While the U.S. Courts have acknowledged the lands were taken unlawfully, the “domestic” processes determined that in both cases too much time elapsed for the Nations to be entitled to a settlement. This from the country that spends billions in support of the 2000 year old land claim and the autonomy of Israel.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Seized Cigarettes Will Be Given Back to Seneca Retailer

Posted: Wednesday, 11 August 2010 6:29PM

Rachel Kingston Reporting
Buffalo, NY (WBEN/AP) -- New York State is going to return a truck full of cigarettes that was seized by taxing agents on Monday to the Seneca retailer to whom it belongs.State Taxation and Finance Spokesman Brad Maione said Wednesday that Monday's stop and seizure was not illegal, but officials who've reviewed of the facts of the case have nontheless chosen to give the truck and its contents back to Aaron Pierce. Maione would not elaborate on what specifically led tax officials to change their minds.Agents who made the seizure on Monday said that they did so because the cigarette cartons weren't stamped properly. But the Senecas question that explanation, since taxation of Native American tobacco products is currently not permitted under New York State law.Pierce contends that the seizure is an act of retaliation. He and 140 other Seneca businesses have filed lawsuits against a new federal law, known as the PACT Act. It bans the shipment of cigarettes in the mail. The Senecas are currently trying to have it declared unconstitutional.At the time of the seizure, the cigarettes were being shipped from one Seneca reservation to another.Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder said Wednesday the tribe is demanding an explanation from Governor Paterson."Why did the state make a move on something that's been going on for a number of years?" Snyder asked. "Why is that process starting in August of this year? [Does it pertain] to the legislation that was passed for September 1 of this year? Or is it something to do with the federal case that's going on, over the PACT Act? I have no idea, at this point."Snyder was referring to the measure that state lawmakers approved earlier this summer, that would authorize the state to collect sales taxes on Seneca tobacco products that are sold to non-Indians. That new law is scheduled to take effect on September 1.