Saturday, August 14, 2010
New York State and the U.S. Federal Government Are Provoking Native Conflict
As politicians and news outlets paint a picture of potential violent conflicts with Native people it is important to put things in their proper perspective or at very least consider the Native one. Should you find yourself backed up on the New York State Thruway or any other major highway that cuts through a Native community or barraged with news reports of stand-offs or conflict between Native people and law enforcement, consider the events of the past year before judging the cause and ask yourself who do these State and federal politicians really think they are serving by creating this conflict.
Last year, in Mohawk Territory, U.S. Customs blocked vehicle access to a section of Akwesasne because Canadian Border Services abandoned their check point on the Mohawk’s Cornwall Island when they were denied permission to bring weapons into the Mohawk community. The river became the only means for residents of the island to access food, general supplies and basic services. Kids were forced onto the river just to go to school. This year the U.S. Coast Guard rammed a boat carrying two young men in an attempt to force them to report their travel from the island to the south shore of the river. Both boys were injured; one of the permanently disabled. Shipments of raw tobacco have been unlawfully seized enroute to Native manufacturers in Akwesasne and the U.S Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms claims to be bringing indictments down on cigarette manufacturers there for operating without a U.S. license.
In Seneca Territory, remote sellers of tobacco products have been under attack by federal law makers who under charges that the Native retailers have been putting cigarettes in the hands of children, robbing money from state coffers and promoting terrorism passed legislation that has begun wiping out as many as 3000 jobs and has already cut the Seneca Nation’s revenue from their retailers to 40% of what it was prior to the legislation. Last week the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance seized a truck carrying Native product shipped by a Native wholesaler from one Seneca territory to Native retailers in another Seneca territory. The State, emboldened by this new federal legislation now believes it can interfere with Native to Native trade even as it proposes shutting off its State licensed wholesalers from supplying Native retailers. On September 1st the State intends to wipe out the remaining Native tobacco trade that has thrived for 30 years and has been the foundation of the economies of every community of the Six Nations.
Last month the U.S. State Department hosted consultations with Native people in Washington D.C. to gather comments and concerns regarding the United State’s position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The current position has been a total rejection of the Declaration since 2007 and we are told that position is now being reconsidered. At issue is the legally binding nature of such an international agreement and the conflict presented by the U.S. “domestication” of Native issues and conflicts. Domestication is a fancy word for forcing Native people into U.S. courts and under U.S. authority. A week after the State Department put on their show for the “Indigenous Peoples” in Washington they attempted to “domesticate” the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team by refusing to recognize their Haudenosaunee passports. Great Britain was hosting the FIL World Lacrosse Championship Tournament and refused to issue travel visas to the descendants of the game’s founders unless they carried a recognized passport that could ensure their re-entry to the United States.
Domestication was the same rationale that developed the concept of “Kill the Indian; save the man”. It was also the means used to throw out the Cayuga land claim and, just last week, the Oneida claim as well. While the U.S. Courts have acknowledged the lands were taken unlawfully, the “domestic” processes determined that in both cases too much time elapsed for the Nations to be entitled to a settlement. This from the country that spends billions in support of the 2000 year old land claim and the autonomy of Israel.