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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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Seneca Nation Attorneys' Weak Showing in Court Shows Why We Shouldn't Be There

By failing to challenge the New York State's authority to interfere with Native commerce in their so-called fight against the State, Seneca Nation attorneys have left many, including the judge in the case, believing that the Seneca Nation has conceded its sovereignty to the State. At this point the entire legal fight has hung on the SNI fighting to keep State wholesalers in the Native tobacco business. Their argument is not that we cannot be compelled to collect tax for the State but rather the method the State is attempting to employ is too burdensome.
Now, I am one of those that believe it is wrong for us to wrap ourselves up in a bunch treaties to defend ourselves. Unlike the "Honor Indian Treaty" crowd, I reject the notion that our territories were created by them and that we are, likewise, defined by them. Our sovereignty is our birthright and was certainly never gifted to us through the words of swindling politicians. The few passages from these over lauded contracts of theft that refer to "free use and enjoyment" or lands that will never be claimed by the U.S. or even those that mention taxes specifically do not encompass the extent or limits of our rights and authority.
Having said that does not mean that we should be afraid to argue against the State's authority. In the SNI's briefs in Federal court, the Nation made clear "it is not advancing the argument in this litigation that its specific treaty rights exempt it and its members from the Supreme Court's generic rule that the State may tax such sales [cigarette] to non-Indians." But they not only shied away from "treaty rights", they failed to reject the State's authority at all. As such, Richard Arcara, the judge in the case, determined that the Nation was conceding this position and wrote in his ruling that "The Seneca Nation expressly acknowledges that, as a general principle, New York State has authority to require reservation retailers to collect excise taxes on sales to non-Indians." I'm not sure that the Seneca Nation has actually conceded this point but only challenging the manner in which the State forces us to collect tax and not even addressing whether they had the right to do it in the first place certainly suggests so.
The whole premise for a state to impose a "minimal burden" on tribes to collect taxes for the state is born out of a few cases heard in Federal Court in other states against Native people with views and circumstances different from ours. There are dozens of issues that make those cases inappropriate for use or justification for New York State, not to mention the general problem we have with anyone believing they can violate our sovereignty simply because a court let another state violate the people of another territory. Not one Wampum Belt needed to be dusted off for this fight. The courts, however, certainly could have seen fit on their own to cite treaties, that their forefathers wrote, to undo this mess. After all these "treaties" are their laws. The belts are ours.
All this points to the undeniable fact that if we allow these issues to be reduced to a matter of state or federal laws, legal issues, we have already conceded certain authority. These are political issues. This is not a question of who has authority over who, because we concede no authority to other controlling interests. That is the definition of sovereignty. In the instance that the freedom of one infringes on the freedom of another is where diplomacy steps in.
When we enter their system, we go in with the risk of losing. The legal wizards in this case that believed they could risk nothing if they just avoided certain issues certainly failed to prove their point. In fact they failed to prove any point except, possibly, mine.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Are you crazy?"

Cartoon by Jack Ahasteen

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Yesterday a cloud blocked the sun
I’m hurting so bad inside its hard to explain
I could tell in the dr’s eyes when he walked in the door that things aren’t gonna be normal anymore
And somehow I always end up with a losing score
All I could think of is my wife and kids and how all I want is the best for them
I put my head down as my wife cried she is truly my best friend
I have to fight I can't let this pull me down
My emotions are mixed as I tread these tears so I don’t drown
To my wife the strongest woman I know
The love of my life she makes me whole
She’s there for me like the sun
And in the dark she’s the stars in the sky
With her I will never turn and run
I’m truly lucky to be her guy
Again we are called to fight this
Again cancer is in our life
Again the chemo bags will drip
Again I will feel sick
Again I will lose my taste
Again my hair will lose its place
Again I will be weak
Again my soul will seek
Again I will have to be away from my family
Again WE will fight
Lesten James White-Pigeon

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The LJWP Fund

Lesten White-Pigeon is Seneca from the Seneca Nation Territory of Cattaraugus. He is 29 years old with a wife, Jessica and two children; Lesten James Jr. age 4 and Julia Rose 17 months. He has been battling Osteosarcoma for more than a year. He lost his leg a year ago last summer but the cancer spread to his chest and lungs. He plans to enlist the help of M. D. Anderson, a specialized cancer hospital in Houston, Texas to join with the Roswell Cancer Institute in Buffalo that is now treating him. The fund raising effort is to both help the family as they enter the holiday season and to assist in the cost associated with out of town treatment. Make checks payable to Lesten White-Pigeon and send them to The LJWP Fund, PO Box 93, Versailles, NY 14168. Thanks for your support.