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, July 3, 2010

New York Jacks Up Cigarette Tax Another $16 and Plans a Tax (Attacks) Against Native Retailers on September 1st

Can we finally stop selling "Big Tobacco's" products? In New York State our tax advantage after July 1st will be almost $50 per carton (over $60 in NYC). There is enough Native produced tobacco product to stock our shelves and serve all comers to our territories. So what is the hang up? Native cigarettes already represents 80% of our sales and, all taxes aside, our own brands are as good or better than theirs and cheaper. Big Tobacco turned on us a long time ago yet, through Marlboro sales alone, most Native retailers have contributed more to Philip Morris' lobbying efforts than to the defense of their own businesses.
The New York State Legislature passed a measure that calls for tax collection on product intended for resale to non-natives to begin on September 1, 2010. However, the State knows that they can't tax our own product. All those cases they try to cite that gives them "authority"(including Attea) all go back to a case in the state of Washington where a major part of the government's argument was that cigarettes being sold had no value added to them by the Indians. Stopping us from selling product that we manufacture would be a whole other battle for the State to fight. The State is wrong for what it is doing as are the feds but we need to recognize how this all plays to our favor.
As Native people, we need to stop fighting each other or throwing each other into the line of fire and concentrate on our Native to Native commerce. If the State and feds want to block their businesses from doing business with us then we need to find solutions around them. They can't stop their citizens from visiting our lands and buying our goods. We need to provide more goods and services to both meet our own needs and to market to the surrounding population so the dollars that come in, stay within our communities longer. As the American economy continues to degrade, more people will be looking for means to save money. For those fortunate enough to be our neighbors, or at least be in driving range, savings on goods and services as well as jobs will always be available on our lands as long as we continue to push and market our advantages. We know which territories are committed to fighting for our commerce. We need to support each other in these territories and be prepared to back away from those that are not willing to defend Native to Native trade. Compliance with the State or even the Feds should not be a prerequisite for trade. Whether a solution is developed to keep our remote sellers in business or not, we need to continue to build and grow out our brick and mortar businesses and that includes retail, service, manufacturing and tourism.
An article from the July issue of Making A Visible Impact Magazine

14 comments:

Pridebourne said...

An aspect that keeps adding to the problem is the continued ambiguous representation of "Native." NY is trying to cite those cases from out west because they believe we are the same type of Indian tribal group. We are not.(Those tribal councils are.) So why keep promoting the ambiguous Native? "As Native people; Native to Native; Native... Native ... Native." Are you serious, or is this just your Brand?

Ohnkwe Ohnwe said...

I'm not sure what is so ambiguous about the word Native. The point is that it is not Nation to Nation commerce that needs to be promoted. It is the trade between the people of different communities that will bring about economic development. Tribal councils are not sovereign. Sovereignty is a birthright. Trade between ohnkwe ohnwe (better?) will help those people that have been sold out by tribal councils, regain some of what has been lost.

Anonymous said...

Doug George-Kanentiio
•The era of big time tobacco sales is coming to an end.
•"There are simply too many forces now aligned against the Iroquois to win this fight"
•"failure of the Iroquois to come up with a cohesive, collective response it is clear the days of freewheeling tobacco are over.
•We knew tobacco was killing hundreds of thousands and there was a spiritual and psychological residue.
•We knew about the teachings of Skaniateriio,[Handsome Lake]
•We knew that without effective controls based on compromise and reason these things would get the better of us and we would be overwhelmed by the greed and passion they would arouse.
•There is a slight possibility of salvaging our tax-free status but it would require the retailers to go to their respective tribal and national leaders and agree to not only revive the 1997 Trade and Commerce Compact but to set a time to get out of the tobacco trade completely.

Pridebourne said...

"Nation to Nation commerce" should be the focal point and ignoring this fact is causing much confusion. Our so-called Native trade is reliant on foreign markets for sales and infrastructure. Those consumers belong to a Nation and have agreed to trade and commerce regulations. In order to gain more sales, our so-called Native businesses advertise themselves as domestic to NY and merely brand their storefronts and packaging with "Native" imagery for public relations. This "Native" business model is as exploitive as those tribal councils that sold out the people. "Sovereignty is a birthright"? You mean freedom from slavery? Tribal councils are sovereign: their members elected them as leaders who make decisions for them.

Ohnkwe Ohnwe said...

I am curious which Native businesses Pridebourn believes advertise themselves as domestic to NY. He has made this senseless charge before. I'm not even sure what he means by it. The fact is that nations, for the most part, don't conduct commerce. They may regulate it but only if they have the authority to do so. Nations with nationalized economies or nationalized segments of their economies conduct commerce but most of the buying and selling in the global market place is done by people or companies not nations. All economies depend on foreign markets so I miss the point trying to be made.
Sovereignty is a birthright. The only power or authority that a tribal council, or any governing body, has is what the people have given them or otherwise concede to them. To suggest that a tribal or chiefs council has "inherent" authority or that they are the sovereign is to simply not understand the words or concepts.

Ohnkwe Ohnwe said...

Anonymous posted an excerpt from a Doug George article that can be found in the July 7th Oneida Daily Dispatch.

Doug's views continue to be exclusive to him. In the full article he implies that "tobacco kingpins" are somehow responsible for the hole in the ozone layer. He never does explain how giving the guys he endorses complete control over the Native tobacco trade would have validated the "right to market this product of death". His views are as irrelevant as he is.

Pridebourne said...

The majority of businesses advertizing in MAVI represent themselves as from NY. "Native" Cigarette brands even cite the USA's Surgeons General warning as an authoritative body. Consumers are mislead into thinking that these operations are nothing more than domestic to their advertized state. Branding is the only indication that the operation may be foreign. If you're not sure what things mean i could see how they appear senseless.
You define sovereignty as, "the power or authority" "given or otherwise conceded to" a "tribal council". You than contradict this definition by claiming that a tribal or chiefs council does not have inherent authority or are the sovereign. You may have sovreign and sovereignty reversed, and lack understanding of macroeconomics and globalized marketing.
Could you explain "sovereignty is a birthright"?

Ohnkwe Ohnwe said...

While I'll agree that it is not necessary or even appropriate to use the closest non-native municipalities for the addresses of Native entities or establishments, it is a pretty long stretch to suggest that by simply using NY in the address that a business is falsely advertizing itself. I suppose that the Seneca Nation and any other First Nation misrepresents themselves as "domestic" State enterprises if they use a State in their address, a silly deduction if you ask me. Listing the Surgeon General's warning does not suggest the product is subordinate to it as some authoritative body. There is nothing misleading in using certain industry standards. It is doubtful that anyone who buys a native brand of cigarettes doesn't know of its distinction as a Native product and when the State regulates non-native products out of our stores, there should be no question even to someone just looking to make up issues like Pridebourne.
I never defined sovereignty as you claim I did. I suggested that the only power or authority a tribal council has is what is given to them by the people or otherwise concede to them and that is precisely because sovereignty is vested in the people as a birthright. Creation provides us with our right to life and freedom. We, as individuals, make certain consessions to society to participate in those societies, but no government is bestowed power from creation.

Ohnkwe Ohnwe said...

I want to again thank Pridebourne for the conversation. Whether you are playing the devil's advocate or really are a native person with these negative views of our people, you provoke me to put a finer point on the position and issues I promote.

Pridebourne said...

I would also thank you Ohnkwe Ohnwe for publishing your thoughts on these issues. Implying that God is on your side and i may be a non-native with negative views of our people is consistantly amusing. Provoking Ohnkwehonwe perspectives by contrasting those from Western culture is my main focus. I raise points to isolate Western fronts in order to weaken their hold on our communities. Clearing minds, ears, and throats of obstructions preventing people from seeing the nature of actions is an integral part of Onkwehonwe perspectives. Tearing away the packaging and fancy wrappers allows our community to see the true product being sold. Rez-passes can only be played in conversation to trump 'non-natives'--Nice try.

Pridebourne said...

You offered "ohnkwe ohonwe" as an alternative to the ambiguous use of native, but, it is still undefined. Do you mean Native-born, as in, born in this region, state, country, continent? And not born in another? What is the distinction between "Native product" and "non-native products"?

Ohnkwe Ohnwe said...

There is no ambiguos use of "Native" on this blog. I offered Ohnkwe Ohnwe as a word in our language that should have resolved your confusion. It is clear through out this blog that my use of the word is closest to Webster's 4th definiton for the word; adj. Of or pertaining to original inhabitants: usually applied to non-European peoples.
I am by no means trying to pass myself off as the last word on defining words or concepts. I do try to be consistent in my use so as to avoid charges of ambiguity.

I try to use a rather liberal or inclusive definition for a Native product. A product that is crafted, manufactured, produced, designed, conceived or even commissioned by a Native person, company or community; I consider to be a Native product. Honing in on a specific standard for some kind of a certification is just another obstacle some would use against others. Knowing the people you do business with and knowing the product you buy and sell is verification enough.

On a side note: you are the first person I have ever encountered that took such a literal interpretation of the use of "devil's advocate" to suggest that I am implying that God is on my side. I am not a man of faith. I acknowledge creation rather than subscribe to a specific belief in that power of creation. We are told that we will not know the face of that power or where it dwells, but will be presented with the evidence of that power. Others can embrace the supernatural; the natural is super enough for me.

Pridebourne said...

The deduction of ohnkwe ohnwe to simply mean Native is silly. Narrowing down Native to mean original inhabitants, non-european peoples, is still vague. So everyone born in north america is "Native"? Using our language to label Native models is an attempt to mask western perspectives with ohnkwe ohonwe themes. "Creation provides us with our right to life and freedom." That is not sovereignty. That is an individualized pursuit of liberty. "We, as individuals, make certain consessions to society to participate in those societies." That is sovereignty. Sovereignty is something created by a body of people. Once a governing body is created by a body of people it is bestowed with power as the Sovereign. Individuals are then born into, adopt and concede to the Sovereign. Freedom may be a birthright but sovereignty exists independent from individuals. You say you are not a man of faith but you believe that our neighbors citizens identify us as sovereign and independent from them. The travel fiasco the Nationals are in is a reflection of those citizens views: "Natives" are actually domestic to the USA. Native imagery is merely branding -- not products from foreign markets.

Ohnkwe Ohnwe said...

Well folks, there you have it. This is the kind of belief and opinion that pervades those that work against us. The danger is when some of this view creeps into the minds of tribal councilors and those are called tribal leaders. There are those among us that embrace these views for self serving reasons. Obviously, we are not served by these views and in fact it is this kind of indoctrination that has been the enemy within.