Testimony at Native Tax Hearing

The New York State Senate has formed a committee to investigate further ways to steal from Native Americans and continue the American Holocaust against our indigenous populations. I was honored to be allowed to testify at the hearing. This is my testimony.

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.

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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