Nov 7/98: US court rules against Mohawk sovereignty



The Globe and Mail
November 7, 1998, p. A6
Associated Press

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

Syracuse, NY. By breaking up a lucrative smuggling ring at a Mohawk reserve straddling the Canadian US border, US authorities settled questions about the territory's sovereignty, according to a federal prosecutor. But some Mohawk leaders maintained yesterday that federal authorities overstepped their authority and violated native rights. "It is an infringement, any way you look at it," said Gus MacDonald, an aide to the elected tribal council.

Larry Miller, the ring's leader and the last of 25 defendants convicted in the case, pleaded guilty Thursday in US District Court. "These pleas should be proof that US criminal law applies in Indian country and that [Mohawk] arguments about sovereignty are not a viable defence," US Attorney Thomas Maroney said after Mr. Miller's plea. Mr. Miller, who owns a bar in upstate New York, admitted laundering $80-million (US) in illicit profits from smuggling contraband cigarettes and liquor into Canada, where they were sold on the black market. Prosecutors said the ring smuggled $687-million (US) worth of tobacco and alcohol through the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation into Canada between 1991 and 1997.

Mr. Maroney said many Mohawks were glad that federal authorities had intervened and broken up the ring. "We were helping them clean up their reservation so they can lead decent and law-abiding lives."

Hilda Smoke, an elected chief, said that attitude violates the "nation to nation relationship with the federal government" that she said supposedly existed. "I doubt if [Mr. Maroney] knows what sovereignty is all about. He is infringing on our rights. If there are criminals to be caught...we have police that will take care of it."

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