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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Sunday, April 24, 2011

"The Sovereignty of Indian Reservations and Indian Tribes is Not Absolute"

This is the opinion of James Calvin of the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) who is clearly the foremost authority on Native sovereignty (NOT!). This statement was offered as a counter to my claim that New York State is lying to the public when they say they plan to tax reservation sales and that the true intent is to shut our convenience stores down. The exchange was produced on a segment of The Capitol Report with Susan Arbetter. http://video.wcny.org/video/1892617821



Here is Calvin's complete statement that appears on the show:


"The sovereignty of Indian reservations and Indian tribes is not absolute - That there are circumstances where...,for example, when a state is trying to collect taxes on cigarettes or other products from non-Indian customers on the reservation - The state is entitled to collect those taxes and it does not infringe on the sovereignty that the tribes have been granted."



OK, let's start with some basic definitions before I even address the ramblings of this idiot. Sovereignty by definition is the possession of supreme jurisdiction or power over a territory or region. It is the right to freedom, independence and autonomy from outside authority. It is not nor cannot be granted; it is simply recognized or not recognized. Any attempt to control the activities on Native land by outside elements represent a willful infringement on a sovereign people or an ignorant failure to recognize our sovereignty. Calvin first tries to suggest that Native sovereignty is not absolute and then tries to suggest that the state's attempt to tax sales on our land does not infringe on our sovereignty. I can only assume he meant to say that the state's right to tax sales occurring on our land is a "legal" infringement of our less-than-absolute sovereignty. Of course this is so untrue that even he could not bring himself to actually say it.



New York State may have the right to tax its own people when they bring certain products purchased from Native retailers back into the state for use and consumption in the state. They clearly claim to have that right regarding cigarettes and, as such, have a form, NYS Form CG-15, to be completed by anyone using cigarettes brought into the state without the state's excise tax paid (or state stamp affixed) provided over two cartons are brought in at a time. To rephrase that: New York may have the right to tax the use of cigarettes in the state that are purchased on our land but NOT the SALES or PURCHASE that occurs on our land. One more time; the use of the product brought into the state may be taxable; not the transaction that occurs on Native lands (or out-of-state for that matter). It is interesting that Calvin doesn't just claim that the state can tax New Yorkers but anyone who is "a non-Indian customer". This would indicate a race component into the argument that goes beyond a jurisdictional issue.



I hope that the fluff that this mouthpiece for an association that represents New York convenience store owners, most of whom don't even live in the state, does not cloud the point I was trying to make on Ms. Arbetter's show and that is that New York State is intent on shutting down the tobacco sales of Native wholesalers and retailers and to do so it plans to outlaw Native brands and to actively stop the legal distribution of those brands. Let's see you really question this claim, Mr. Calvin.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

American Genocide



By Jed Morey in Indian Issues on http://jedmorey.com/

Writing a column is sometimes an arduous process. When a thought is in the embryonic stage, yet deadlines require it to prematurely take shape on the page, it can be utterly frustrating. There are times, however, when the column gods smile upon you and organize your experiences in such a profound and unambiguous way that the act of writing is a denouement of sorts that reaffirms one’s faith in the process.

On Monday of this week I was reviewing materials related to New York’s cigarette taxation policy on Indian territories—a frequent topic of this column—in preparation for an interview with a friend upstate named John Kane, who discusses Indian issues on his weekly radio show in Buffalo. While I was organizing my notes, John sent me a message asking if I had seen a recent news report about welfare and Indians in America by John Stossel. I had not.

Full disclosure: I had no idea who John Stossel was prior to viewing this report. It didn’t take long, however, to arrive at the conclusion that this reprobate masquerading as a reporter is a modern-day sophist who obviously sold his soul to the devil a long, long time ago in return for fame, fortune and the worst ’70s porn moustache this side of Geraldo Rivera.

Last week, this veteran television “journalist” broadcast a segment titled “Freeloaders” on Roger Ailes’ ongoing anti-intellectual jihad known as Fox News. It’s a subject Stossel has “investigated” before. Only this time he directs his vitriol at American Indians, a group he refers to en masse in his introduction as “wards of our state.” Stossel then proceeds to churn out quite possibly the most one-sided, racist commentary on TV news since Dodgers’ executive Al Campanis told Ted Koppel in 1987 that black people don’t have “some of the necessities” to manage in baseball and lacked “the buoyancy” to be good swimmers.

Stossel’s report is packaged as an investigative news feature and passed off as real journalism despite the complete absence of veracity. Stossel prevaricates so often in attempting to prove that every Indian in America is poor, stupid and lazy that this piece almost feels like satire. Only it’s not. He blames outrageous government subsidies for poverty on Indian territories, not the fact that over four centuries, the Indians who weren’t extinguished and disposed of were herded into the remote, resource-poor areas of our nation and stripped of their land, rights, dignity, habitat, game and whatever else our government could steal.

But for Stossel, enough is enough. It’s high time Indians pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start making money without the assistance of the federal government or revenue from casino gaming. Declaring “Capitalist Indians achieve,” Stossel sets out to prove that the American dream is available for Indians too, if they would just stop being so poor, stupid and lazy. In fact, not only can they still be Indian, they can be rich. Like the Amish.

No, that wasn’t a joke. He actually asks a pro-native advocate during an interview, “How come the Amish got wealthy?” While his guest is attempting to recover from the idiocy of this question, he steps in with his own conclusion: “Maybe they weren’t relying on government rules and Indian trusts and lawyering that teaches Indians to be helpless.”

Every conclusion that Stossel arrives at is based upon absolute lies. He holds the Lumbee tribe in North Carolina out as the ultimate success story, insinuating that they are all thriving because they choose to ignore government subsidies and don’t let the United States control their land like every other tribe in America. He uses this example as the benchmark against which every Indian nation should be compared and ignores the fact that the Lumbee Indians exist in perhaps the strangest Indian purgatory with a status exactly unlike every other tribe in America.

First of all, there is no Lumbee reservation. Moreover, Lumbee is just a colloquial name given to an amalgam of Indian tribes who are federally “recognized” as having authentic Indian roots though hailing from a large and disparate geographic area. This condition is vastly different from being “federally recognized.” The distinction is of no moment to Stossel, who goes on to falsely claim that the U.S. government actually controls Indian reservations. Footage of poverty-stricken reservations out west provides the backdrop for venomous lies such as this: “Because the government owns most Indian property, individuals rarely build nice homes or businesses.”

I have neither the time nor the inclination to detail the copious ways in which Stossel lies through his cheesy moustache in this shameless “report.” I’ve wasted too much effort on this lowlife bastard already. Instead, I leave you with the perspective I gained from witnessing the perfect counterpoint to his dripping filth.

Tuesday night my wife and I attended an event at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County to hear Eli Rosenbaum speak. Rosenbaum, who hails from Westbury, is the director of human rights and special prosecutions for the U.S. Department of Justice and has the distinction of being the longest-serving prosecutor and investigator of Nazi criminals and other genocide perpetrators in history. His presentation was brilliant and captivating. But it was the courageous testimony of Eugenie Mukeshimana, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide who spoke before him, that broke the hearts of every person in attendance.

What struck me most as I sat down to pen this column, and what the column gods undoubtedly intended me to experience in this period, was not as obvious as you might think. The obvious parable is the dichotomy between Stossel’s blatant racism and transparent hatred and the purity of Rosenbaum’s work and the tragedy of Mukeshimana’s story. But it’s John Kane’s perspective that broke through to me, and perhaps saddened me the most.

No matter what I write here or how many dots are ever connected in people’s minds about life in Indian Country, there will never come a time when the majority of Americans recognize the genocide hidden in plain sight: the American holocaust. This is how Indians like John Kane refer to it, and casually so, because for them it is living history, an ever-present reality. But it isn’t spoken of or acknowledged in white circles. There is no one for Eli Rosenbaum to prosecute. There is no Indian Mukeshimana who can testify to the atrocities.

As Americans we view ourselves as liberators, and in many cases throughout history, we have been indeed. We go so far as to blame ourselves for not intervening in places such as Rwanda but our national guilt ends there. And while I was simultaneously bursting with pride last night listening to Eli Rosenbaum—a Long Islander, one of us—and breaking with sorrow for Eugenie Mukeshimana, I must admit to what is perhaps the grossest of human emotions: envy.

I was envious that there are good souls in the world who value human life enough to listen, understand and learn. Envious that there are people like Rosenbaum who selflessly dedicate their lives to justice, no matter how belated it may be. Envious because neither exists for the invisible indigenous people of our nation considered by Stossel (and I’m sure many others) as “wards of our state.”