Mohawk Nation News, Akwesasne. 20-May-97. Around 4:00 pm on Sunday, May 19th, the Mohawk people of Akwesasne Territory (Upstate New York) found out that the Tribal Councilors (of the Bureau of Indian Affairs) Phillip Tarbel, Ed Smoke and Doug Smoke had signed a 60 day interim agreement with New York State Governor George Pataki. The Mohawk have been adamant about not talking to New York State, demanding a nation to nation meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton, according to the Two Row Wampum and the Treaty of Canadaigua. The deal the three signed would force the Mohawks of Akwesasne to buy cigarettes at $18.00 a carton and gas at $1.24 a gallon, which are higher than prices off the territory. Right now all businesses are closed because they refuse to collect taxes on sales of cigarettes and gas.
Phil Tarbel had just returned from Onondaga, where he watched a lacrosse game with his friend, Oren Lyons. Nearby 300 New York State Troopers dressed in riot gear had attacked and arrested the Iroquois people who were conducting a traditional ceremony at a fire on private property next to Interstate Highway 81, 5 miles south of Syracuse. Oren Lyons, Irving Powless and Ollie Gibson had ordered this brutal attack. 24 people were arrested and charged with trespassing, unlawful assembly and resisting arrest.
On Sunday, Phil Tarbel was in his office in the Tribal Council Complex at Akwesasne when about 10 women entered his office and started scolding him, that he had "no right to sign this agreement". In the midst of this commotion, a woman pulled out a red willow stick and told Tarbel, "Bend over". Tarbel answered, "No". Then she hit him with the stick on the arm and told him, "You are a bad boy!" She hit him again on the other arm and said, "This is for not listening to the people!" She hit him again allegedly in the mid region beneath his waist, telling him he had "no right to sign any agreement on behalf of the Mohawks!"
Then the woman turned Tarbel over to the men and told them to "throw him off the territory!" The men grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and the waist of his pants, threw him into the back of a pickup-truck and drove him to the edge of the territory. They backed the truck, threw him into the ditch and drove off.
Before the encounter with the women, Tarbel and the other two councilors had signed a letter to Governor Pataki rescinding the agreement. Why did he sign this agreement? Was he going to have the store because he already has a cigarette wholesalers license which would be a conflict of interest.
Said a clan mother about the women's action. "It's about time. That's what the Law Iroquois constitution) says if you don't listen". She went on further, "The women were lenient on this collaborator. The women have to start exercising their powers. We've been quiet up to now".
Mohawk Nation News
Box 991, Kahnawake Mohawk Territory