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.

"Let's Talk Native..." on the LTN Radio Network

"Let's Talk Native..." on the LTN Radio Network
Click the LTN Banner above for a link to the "Let's Talk Native…" feed on Unity Stream
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________

Donate to "Let's Talk Native"

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cuomo’s Casino Dream

Published in the August 29, 2013 issue of the ARTVOICE

Somewhere along the line, Andrew Cuomo’s campaign promise to clean up New York State politics and government got replaced by a dream he never shared with us during his run for governor. New Yorkers got neither campaign reform nor heightened transparency laws. What they received instead was a slew of gaming interest dollars showered on the Governor and some of his key supporters, a collection of back door “Indian” gaming exclusivity deals, and the second passage of a law to amend the State Constitution to legalize State-licensed casinos. So no Albany cleanup but the wholesome family fun of “Vegas style” casinos made it through the State legislature and the Governor’s pen instead.

This Cuomo casino dream, pitched as a job creator and a plan to lift the State out of its financial morass, is not a done deal yet. This November’s off-year election will feature a public referendum to amend the 193-year constitutional ban on casino gaming. Beyond the obvious problem with the New York State jumping into an industry based solely on a vice and one known for corruption, there are some valid reasons why this is such a bad idea for New Yorkers.

First, where will the new casinos’ patrons come from? New York State boasts tourism as its number four industry, but how much of that industry draws revenue from outside the state? With the exception of New York City, is any other place really a tourist draw from out-of-state? The answer is no. It is fairly well established that the type of casinos proposed for the Empire State will draw 90 percent of its patrons from within a 50-mile radius of the venue. The casinos will be paying around 40 percent of their net to the State. So all the promises of jobs and tourism aside, let’s be clear: rather than pulling dollars into the State, these facilities will instead suck money out of their areas to the State. These new businesses cannot possibly be a boon to a local economy unless patrons are bussed in from elsewhere to offset the money that will be siphoned out of the area.

The only place that could possibly draw outside money is New York City, which will not get a casino anytime soon as a result of this referendum. So all you “New Yorkers” who will have to take one more look at your Weiner in your mayoral race, this “dream” is not for you. Other places, such as Niagara Falls, the Thousand Islands and Lake Placid, aren’t getting one either. Cuomo’s “Indian” exclusivity deals removed all of them from consideration. Just three areas are included in the legislation: the Eastern Southern Tier (Binghamton), the Catskills and the Capital District. So that’s it; a statewide constitutional referendum to change a 193 year-old ban so three areas (all excluding the State’s 4 largest cities) can try to save New York State from its financial woes.

In the best of times, when disposable income is plentiful and a majority have money burning holes in their pockets then, sure, fleecing the public with the old “dollar and a dream” scam might be great. I suppose a “dream” does sound better than a “gamble.” But not when it’s their last dollar or when they are already a dollar short. State gambling is a backhanded tax––an addictive, unfair and uncompromising tax. Like the New York Lottery, it is designed to fleece the public for state revenue.

And Albany will not be the only black hole casino revenue. Don’t forget about the gaming corporations that will be running them. There is only a slim chance that a New York-based company will win a casino contract. I’d put my money on Malaysia, Nevada or New Jersey. Their profits will not be spent in the area of these new venues. They’ll be distributed to shareholders living elsewhere. Their high paid executives will likely be brought in from out-of-state and the jobs created for the local residents will be barely above minimum wage with a heavy reliance on tips. And unlike most jobs where you might expect pay to increase over time; these jobs will see tips drop off once the newness of Cuomo’s casino dream wears off. Players won’t be the only losers.

There is no good reason to vote for this referendum. It is one thing for the Seneca or Oneida nations to fund their governments with casinos. They fund their tiny population, drawing from a much larger outside demographic. They don’t rely on their own people as a primary market.

Herein lies the fatal flaw in the Governor’s “Casino Dream.” New York State cannot fix its failing economy by sucking more dollars out of the people who are struggling within it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Good “Indians”

Published in the August 28, 2013 issue of The Two Row Times

Let’s be honest. Most people have no idea who Philip Sheridan is – or care. The infamous quote, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” is attributed to him. Whether Sheridan really said it or not is like him – of little consequence. However, the quote is as entrenched in American racism as any opinion that was ever expressed.

There are two ways to interpret the quote but neither leaves any room to describe a Native person who has survived the longest and most sustained attempts at genocide as “good.”
The obvious and first assumed interpretation is that relative to a live “Indian” a dead one is better. U.S. President and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Theodore Roosevelt (d. 1919) once said, “I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn't inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.” This guy obviously subscribed not only to this interpretation but also to this sentiment. Is there any wonder why the Lakota want his face off their Black Hills?

There is another way to view this classic American quote and that is to suggest that all the “Good Indians” have died or been killed. L. Frank Baum, author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” thought Sitting Bull was a “good Indian.” He called him the “Greatest Medicine Man of his time, by virtue of his shrewdness and daring.” And upon his cowardly murder at the hands of the U.S. government, Baum went on to write, “With his fall the nobility of the Redskin is extinguished and what few are left are pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them.”

Now here we have a “gentleman” that so loved the image of the “early Redskins of America” who because of his belief that the “proud spirit” of the Indian “lingered last in the bosom of Sitting Bull,” called for “the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians.” For Baum, the “Good Indians” were all dead and so as not to tarnish the image of those “good” dead Indians, he preached genocide.

In his words: “Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are. History would forget these latter despicable beings, and speak, in latter ages of the glory of these grand Kings of the forest and plain.” Hell! They would model their Boy Scouts of America after them. They’ll name their high school, college and professional sports teams after them. But, of course, he meant name them after the “good Indians” – that is to say, the dead ones.
Unfortunately, for America – and not for lack of trying – those “latter despicable beings” were not annihilated. Baum knew we would always be trouble. Here’s what he wrote following the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre: “Having wronged them for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.”

I contend that most non-Native people on this continent suffer from a “Baum Complex.” They really like the “story” of the “Indians” so why do we living Indians have to mess it up for them? I don’t think the non-Native population is really worried that we will destroy their civilization – they are doing that just fine without us.

But we sure do screw up their version of history; and messing with their sports teams is just unreasonable. Even those that claim to “empathize” with us because they acknowledge the undeniable, as Baum did – “Having wronged them for centuries” – just can’t understand why we don’t stop all this sovereignty nonsense. Just accept things now, be proud of who you were, and stop being “despicable.” Cheer for the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians and be proud of your place in our history. So we've been told.

I was told recently and very publicly by the Niagara Falls, New York mayor to “Let it go! Just let it go!” Well, many have, but a growing number of us just won’t “let it go.”  We will not be “Good Indians.”

Friday, August 23, 2013

“Full Sovereign" – a buzzword for minority status - The River of Words
Too often I have witnessed, that lip service is given to issues that are associated with Onkwehonweh (real people) political matters. Whether coming from elected government representatives or the mainstream media, the disdain for culturally-based concepts comes across through skin-deep engagement and coverage. This historical practice remains the same in modern times.
Under the guise of modern history, the language of diplomacy has been closely attributed to the French language. The French word “parler” (verb) means “to speak.” A word with similar origins is the name of the “parliamentary” form of government.
If a country “parleyed” with another country, the intent was to conference with another party, particularly as part of a truce, or as an action between enemies. The classic sign to parley was to raise a black flag by the summoning party. This is still the internationally recognized signal.
Following this train of thought, within the language of contemporary politics I have heard that recently the term “full sovereign” is now being put forth as a public talking point statement by elected representatives of the United States, in reference to North American Indian nations. The usage of this phrase raised a black flag with me. This is not a political equal speaking to another political equal. It is a diplomatic pat on the head.
What are they really saying? Why are they saying this? What is the benefit to Onkwehonweh, if any?
These words “full sovereign” were spoken recently at the NIGA Summer Legislation Update meetings to a meeting visitor by a male Congressman (NIGA stands for the National Indian Gaming Association.) When questioned on the use of this phrase, the response was from a bewildered-looking member of the US Congress. The gratuitous value of a “full sovereign” label was thus exposed.
It is possible that the intended audience for the remarks (in Washington D.C.) was one of placated, and possibly satisfied, citizens of the United States. The irony of uttering the words “full sovereign” to a gathering of Onkwehonweh should have fallen on deaf ears. Yet the hall was silent as the question of what it meant was muddled in response.
Possibly “full sovereign” made reference to the legal term “sovereign immunity” that has been employed by elected, federally-recognized American tribal councils. It is more commonly cited by the historically ensuing federal governments of the United States and Canada in response to lawsuits by federally recognized tribes and band councils, to assert their own “sovereign immunity” in response to the legal challenges. In fact, a common expression of tribal sovereign immunity is to “waive sovereign immunity” as part of the legal process. You rarely, if ever, hear the federal governments waive their own “sovereign immunity.” Evidently, it is poor form to begin to do so, if one believes in “stick to your guns” sovereign expression.
More likely, “full sovereign” alludes to an interpretation best displayed in the legal proceedings of the Miccosukee Tribe in their arguments against the United States Internal Revenue Service. In 2010, Judge Alan S. Gold of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the Miccosukee Tribe overstepped their claims of sovereign immunity to efforts by the United States government to access financial records involving tribal accounts and elected leadership. Additionally, to display the matter to other watching tribal governments, the United States was described as a superior sovereign in comparison to the political status of the Miccosukee Tribe as a “domestic dependent nation” which the US Congress can limit, modify or eliminate the powers of local self-government which tribes otherwise possess, “subject to ultimate federal control.”
The shock and awe of “full sovereign” tribal status labeling fails all of the political tests that equals employ with each other.  Whether spoken in the French language or through legal briefs, the intent is clear. In the United States, there can only be one form of government, despite the lack of formal agreements by Onkwehonweh to accept or endorse that status. There can never be any confusion to the outcome of such an argument, according to the United States. They will never parley with inferiors.

Onkwehonweh have to bear this in mind. Tribal governments funded by big government can be bought off and stifled. The land-based rights of Onkwehonweh have no buyout price nor can they be discounted. The birthright of the unborn generations can never be made inferior to any man-made system. Creation cannot be bought off, today or ever.

The River of Words

Sometimes you have to just get in there and get down to the business of the people. Let’s look through the mist surrounding the solutions that we can find together as a united people in need of clarity and advancement.
With your permission, we will now navigate the maze of the motive and intent of what Onkwehonweh (real people) must face, each and every day, as they reach for their own freedom as people of the earth and as guardians of the lands of the unborn. Our sovereign path is built upon land-based rights, neither granted nor limited by government, but instead, lit by the freedom of thought and personal choice of action of the individual. The path that is shared by all of us who feel that if it is not used, it will become overgrown and forgotten through disuse, or placed off-limits by those who have laid an alternate, temporary road covering those same lands, which leads those who take it in the wrong direction and is always in need of repair. Laying those new roads does not mean that those original sovereign rights we share are extinguished. They will always still be there. They represent our Unity. They must be dusted off regularly.
These words are for those of you who walk this path with me. Taking longer strides the stronger you become in your understanding of who you are and where you are going. Your Native pride inspires me, all of you, both young and old, with every step that you make, with every breath that you take, each and every day. I want to personally thank you for your survival. Our lands and the awe-inspiring power of Creation live through each of you, who have chosen to defend them.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Sting and the Overreach: From Kansas City to Tonawanda, Oshweken, Yakama and More

From the LTN Column in the August 21, 2013 edition of The Two Row Times.

Last week, a 43-count federal indictment was filed in the Western District of Missouri. It named 18 defendants and while only a handful of were Native, this indictment and the “sting” that brought it is ALL about us. The elaborate Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) sting set up in Kansas City, Missouri was all about selling cigarettes to Native retailers on Native lands within the imaginary borders and, even more imagined, control of New York State.
For more than 30 years, Native retailers have been selling tobacco products on Native lands free from New York State’s regulatory control, including the State’s sales and excise taxes. Compliance with federal excise tax, for the most part, has been met and is not at issue with this indictment. Of course, this specifically raises the question about why, i.e. if the federal taxes are paid, is the ATF mounting a sting over state tax? Herein lies the crux and significance of this case.
The Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act (CCTA) is really being put to the test here. This law basically states that ANY tobacco products requiring state tax (and the stamp indicating proof of that paid tax) found in a state requiring such a tax and stamp is deemed by the federal government as “contraband” if that tax is not paid (and affixed with the proper tax stamp) UNLESS the product is in the possession of an AUTHORIZED dealer or wholesaler. Of course, Native wholesalers, distributors and retailers do not qualify as AUTHORIZED dealers. The facts that New York State knows – that their taxes cannot be enforced on our lands and that THEY have never established that “unstamped” product on Native land is “illegal” or that Native businesses do not require State “authorization” – are completely glossed over for one reason: PRECEDENT.
Now while the product used in this “sting” was not a Native-made product, establishing that a product brought onto our lands without a NYS tax stamp can be deemed unlawful and to have that hold up in court is HUGE. Let’s be clear: NONE of the cigarettes on the shelves in Seneca Territories, Tuscarora, Tonawanda, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk or our brothers on Long Island have NYS stamps on them. NONE! And in the more than 30 years that Native smoke shops have existed, never has a stamped product been on our shelves. Now New York State has, after many years, cleared enough of their own legal hurdles to finally cut off their “state licensed wholesalers” (state stamping agents) from selling us unstamped product, a practice that existed for almost all of those 30 years, but state laws stop well short of establishing that our sales and, likewise, our acquisition of unstamped cigarettes is a crime. In fact, to the extent that “premium brands” or non-Native brands have been made more difficult for retailers to purchase, Native brands have pretty much successfully replaced them and New York State finds itself wrestling with this “problem.”
So now here come the FEDS! By luring a few Native retailers with truckloads of hard-to-come-by Marlboros and Newports from out of state, the ATF hopes it can assert federal law to enforce state law that otherwise cannot be established on our lands, PARTICULARLY AS IT APPLIES TO NATIVE BRANDS!
Even as this case was building, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had filed lawsuits to block Native brands from entering the State en route to Native territories. So there you have it! This entire elaborate scheme has been developed to crush Native-to-Native commerce, a trade that the State and Feds know they have no business in.
No matter where you stand on tobacco use or “wealthy smoke shop owners,” this is an affront to all of us. The two targets of the NYS Attorney General are King Mountain brand of the Yakama Nation (located in what is now Washington State) and Seneca brand of Grand River Enterprises in Oshweken. In my opinion, this is the SOVEREIGNTY fight of our time – not because of cigarettes but because of trade. We need to realize that it doesn’t matter if it is the Conservatives in Canada or the Democrats (Liberals) in the U.S. We are under attack. When the U.S. federal government under Democrat Barack Obama throws this kind of support to New York State under Democrat Andrew Cuomo to shut down one of the few bright spots in the otherwise dismal economies of our territories, it is time to respond. We will always fight for our land and water – a fight that will be ongoing – but when will we finally draw the line on oppressive governments interfering with a basic right to trade and sustain ourselves? It is time for ALL of us to respond.
Tobacco was always ours and it was always a significant element of our trade. It was this way long before the white man bastardized its use and its form, turning it into a product of addiction, politics and massive wealth opportunities for them. The continuous attempt to criminalize our participation in a trade that they misappropriated from us and almost completely dominate throughout the world is as incredible as it is hypocritical.
Almost as a side note and for any of those within our own ranks that harbor ill will toward private sector development within our territories and are under the belief that all private enterprise is evil and unlawful, perhaps I should mention a few more details of this indictment and just who is in the tobacco trade on our lands. One of those listed in the indictment is the operator of the Tonawanda Seneca Nation Enterprises (TSNE). The TSNE shop, also known as Jan’s Smoke Shop, is not a private enterprise. It is one of the much-touted “lawful” Haudenosaunee businesses that are distinguished from private entrepreneurs by the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee. This shop’s premier brand is the Seneca brand of Grand River Enterprises, one of the same brands that are being targeted in this grand scheme. Seneca brand is the most popular Native brand not only for the privately owned shops but also for the Onondaga’s smoke shop and Seneca Nation’s “One Stops” and Oneida Nation’s “Sav-on” stores. That’s right, the “Central Fire” of the historic and legendary Haudenosaunee depends on this product from Oshweken. Even beyond these specific “Nation” enterprises, the Seneca Nation and Saint Regis Tribe in Akwesasne also pull millions of dollars into their general funds from the private sector smoke shops. Seneca, King Mountain and a host of other Native brands fund both “Traditional” Native governments and “Elected” ones.
But let’s get back to the individual indicted this past week as the operator of the TSNE’s smoke shop. This is a Nation employee and is actually forbidden from paying state tax according to “A Special Report by the Haudenosaunee on some of the primary aspects of Law, Sovereignty and Governance” (March 1998).

“The Haudenosaunee have never accepted, nor do we intend to accept, the jurisdictional authority of New York State…to levy sales and excise taxes upon our people or any transactions that are conducted within the territorial boundaries of our member nations.”
Will this loyal Tonawanda woman be hung out to dry and “take the rap” for the only enterprise of the Tonawanda Seneca Nation? Will the Tonawanda Chiefs allow this (or recommend it to shield them)? Will the Tonawanda people allow this? Will the Haudenosaunee?
Whether it is a Nation enterprise or private business, the sovereignty of all of us is being violated. The Feds imposing state law on any of us, whether we are in Yakama, Oshweken or Tonawanda is wrong and must be fought. Most on the list of those indicted will ultimately plea out to make a deal. Many did before the indictment even came down. An individual plea agreement is one thing but a court ruling on this must not stand. The ripple effect will cripple what little economies we have and will kill many opportunities we have yet to even explore. Protecting Native-to-Native trade is not an option – it is an imperative.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Two Row Times is a Family Affair

Andrew Cleaning Ink from his hands
Andrew Cleaning Ink from his hands
By Jim Windle
The Two Row Times news publication is the product of years and even generations of hard work and entrepreneurial Native spirit.
Owner and publisher, Jonathan Garlow, inherited this spirit from his father, Andrew Garlow of Garlow Printing and Copy located on Mohawk Road at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.
“I’ve been in the printing business for half a century now, I guess,” says the senior Garlow.
“I’ve been in the printing business for half a century now, I guess,” says the senior Garlow. “I started in the printing business at age 22. I guess I kind of fell into it.”
He recalls becoming friends with a man he worked with in Toronto who showed him the basics of how to run an offset press. And he liked it.
“I kept moving to different places,” he remembers. “I was just trying to get a little money and gain some experience.”
His life journey then took him to Brantford where he began work at Ricter Web Printing, some 30 years ago. That is where he and Two Row Time’s Graphic Designer, David LaForce, first met and worked together as the only two Natives in the shop.
Andrew and Jonathan working on the press
Andrew and Jonathan working on the press
David’s connection to Six Nations comes through his maternal grandmother, a Mohawk of the Wolf Clan. His father is from the Mississaugas of the New Credit and his grandfather was from Wahta Mohawks. His grandfather attended residential school but his grandmother’s family would not allow her to go.
Two years later, Garlow jumped at the chance to work at Hurley Printing, a union shop in Brantford, and he and LaForce went their separate ways. Now, decades later, their paths meet again.
In 1994, Garlow gathered up a few dollars, his accumulative knowledge and experience, and opened his own print shop back home at Six Nations, which has been serving the needs of Six Nations and New Credit ever since.
Now, almost 20 years later, he is helping his son Jonathan make his own move into the news publication business.
Jonathan is a man of many talents. He has an accomplished musical career which saw him found Tru Rez Crew, an award winning hip hop group and groundbreaking force in Native hip hop. Tru Rez Crew won the 2003 Canadian Aboriginal Awards for best Rap Album and best song single. Jonathan continues to play Gospel music in his community and is a producer who collaborates with many local native artists. In 2008 he produced Karha:kon – “In the Bush” a reality TV hunting show which aired on First Nations Cable. Among other efforts directed and produced the feature length documentary film Day Zero.
Andrew is proud of what Jonathan is now pursuing, and supports him in every way he can. He is also pleased with the team Jonathan has assembled around himself — a team which includes Andrew’s old co-worker and friend Graphic Designer David LaForce.
“When you start a new thing you have to be around people who believe in what they are doing and put into it whatever it will take to succeed,” says the senior Garlow. “When I started my business, failure was not an option and I’d put in as many hours as it took, many times 16 hour days.”
David LaForce and Family
David LaForce and Family
“It’s a great team Jon has put together,” he says. “I have every confidence in them all.”
“I’m really excited about the Two Row Times,” says Nahnda. “Our family has gone through a lot the last while with the death of Jon’s brother Jeremy and his mother (Eleanor). I have also recovered from having had breast cancer, and it all kind of happened in a short period of time, so it’s really good to see something new on the horizon — to be walking forward into a new part of this journey.”Although a little nervous, as anyone would be going into such an ambitious endeavor, Jon’s wife Nahnda, an Onondaga of the Beaver Clan, is also excited about her husband’s new adventure.
She loves to see Jon and his dad working together with a group of people of the same good mind.
She and Jon are a part of a new generation of young Native entrepreneurs, who bring a whole new approach to the age old business of information sharing.
Nahnda admits to getting the majority of her news and information on-line, and this is the element of the Tow Row Times that most excites her.
“Having a strong social media element has got to be an integral part of the Two Row Times,”
“Having a strong social media element has got to be an integral part of the Two Row Times,” she says. “To be honest I might look at the front page news and a couple of pages in, but then I go right to the births deaths and classifieds. But I’m on facebook four, five or six times a day.”
She isn’t alone. In fact, within her age group and younger, this is the new normal according to all statistics, which also reveals more than 50% of Native populations are under the age of 30.
Like most Onkwehon:we readers, she has become jaded by the misrepresentation and misinformation being put out as fact in the mainstream media. This is another reason she believes in her husband’s vision for the Two Row Times.
According to her, it was all the misrepresentation and spin the mainstream media put on the coverage of the reclamation of Kanonhstaton (Caledonia) that turned her off to the  corporate media.
“Things were way blown out of proportion and a lot of things were left out,” she recalls.
This being said, there will always be a need for the printed page as well as the electronic media and the Two Row Times hopes to excel in both forms.
Together and with their extended family and staff the Garlows hope to make a difference and help get the “real” news reported for and about Onkwehon:we people everywhere with the Two Row Times.