Butt Out

New York digs a hole for itself and looks for the little guy to fill it

buttKing Michael Bloomberg from the neighboring fiefdom of New York City is running out of cash. Well, not him per se but his empire. Having run high on the hog collecting tax bounty from the robber barons on Wall Street lo these many years, his treasury is dwindling. So King Mike is doing what any good monarch would do—get it from the poor. More specifically, the poorest people in the nation.

King Mike believes that New York State is losing millions of potential tax dollars from the illegal sale of cigarettes from New York tribes such as Shinnecock Reservation and Poospatuck to non-native reservation dwelling residents.  He likens the governor’s avoidance of cracking down on Native Americans to him letting murderers go free in the city. Ah. I can see the correlation. 

Here we are hundreds of years removed from the beginnings of the Native American genocide and American politicians are trying to finish the job. Not satisfied with banishing the remaining native people to the farthest reaches of their homeland, our elected officials are still seeking ways to humiliate an entire race of people.

Is it illegal for Native Americans to sell cigarettes without collecting sales tax? I don’t know. Was it legal to purposely spread chicken pox during peace time to systematically eradicate a native population? Was it legal to exile a people to the most resource-poor areas of their homeland and then kill their game and pollute their water supply? Is it legal that one in three Native American women living on reservations today will be the victim of rape during her lifetime and that it will be ignored by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs? Is it legal that the Bureau of Indian Affairs arbitrarily refuses to “recognize” tribes such as the Shinnecock Nation?

To fully understand the Native American paradox of living autonomously within the borders of its conquering nation you must first walk a mile in their moccasins. Native Americans living on reservation land cannot obtain a mortgage since the land beneath their homes cannot be repossessed. As we have learned all too painfully from the current mortgage crisis our economy hinges on the consumer’s ability to create value and equity in his or her home. Absent this single piece, Native Americans are forced to live outside reservation land to achieve the so-called American dream of home ownership. For those who choose to stay on reservation land, options are dramatically reduced.

So are they selling contraband? Maybe. Does the humiliation visited upon them for the past two hundred years justify allowing them to continue the practice regardless of the findings in the court? I think so.

Bloomberg’s castigation of these tribes is a cheap tactic that makes the victim out to be the perpetrator. It reflects a remarkably shallow understanding of the relationship between tribal people in New York and the local government and highlights his total lack of historical perspective. His precious Manhattan was swindled from under the bare feet of Native Americans and still he wants more.

I like this King Michael. I think he’s an intellectual, a visionary and nonconformist. Therefore, I expect more of him.

Author: Jed Morey

Jed Morey is the publisher of the Long Island Press, LI's Cultural Arts and Investigative News Journal. The Press has a monthly circulation of 100,000, and www.longislandpress.com, welcomes more than 500,000 unique visitors every month. He serves on the board of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center in Nassau County, as well as the President's Council of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Long Island. In addition to the contributions on this blog, Morey authors a column for the Long Island Press titled "Off The Reservation" and is a staunch advocate for Indian rights. The column was voted Best Column in New York by the NY Press Association in 2010 and third overall in the nation among alternative publications by the Association of Alternative Weeklies in 2012. Morey lives in Glen Cove with his wife, Eden White, and their two daughters.

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