Apr 14/97: Update on Seneca tax resistance


From: Kathie Tennery
To: serendipity-L
Subject: Workers World News Service: NEW YORK'S "INDIAN WARS"

Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Apr. 14, 1997
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Ellie Dorritie
Cattaraugus Reservation, N.Y.

In solidarity with Native nations, hundreds of demonstrators from western New York and other regions gathered at the Cattaraugus Seneca Reservation April 13 to demand that New York state stop its threats and blockades against Indian people.

For an hour, the demonstration shut down the busy New York State Thruway, a main east-west artery that crosses Seneca Nation land. A lengthy caravan of Native and non-Native people moved slowly down the Thruway from Buffalo to the reservation so that other travelers could read the signs on their cars supporting Native sovereignty rights.

As the caravan came off the Thruway, state troopers pulled some cars over. They redirected others in a short-lived attempt to keep them away from a rally on the reservation.

Hundreds of Native people greeted the arriving caravan with cheers.

Seneca Elder Esther Sundown, a Longhouse faithkeeper, told the rally: "We are a peaceful people. Why are they doing this to us? We are not hurting anybody. We are just trying to live. These things can lead to the annihilation of our people. The person who needs to be annihilated is Pataki."

Min. Halim Muhammed of the Nation of Islam added: "We African-American people understand what it is like to be oppressed. We also feel a closeness to Native American people because we remember that generations ago they sheltered us and helped us during slavery. We must support each other's struggles."

National People's Campaign spokesperson Bev Hiestand of Buffalo told the rally, "Native nations are sovereign nations, and this land we are on is the land of Native Americans. No government, not the United States nor the state of New York, has the right to dictate here what business can be conducted nor what economic decisions can be made."

Bill "Grandpa Bear" Swanson, head of the New York state American Indian Movement, pledged AIM support to the Cattaraugus struggle.

Moonanum James of United American Indians of New England and the NPC traveled from Boston to attend the rally. "Now more than ever, all of us--red, black, yellow, white, men and women--need to stand side by side," said James, "look the government in the eye, and fight back together."

The entire rally then marched to the Thruway, went down the embankment and totally blocked traffic in both directions. Cars and trucks were backed up for miles. About 50 state police in riot gear tried to intimidate the protesters. They grabbed one Native man, but were forced by the crowd to let him go.

Seneca Nation President Michael Schindler wrapped up the rally by declaring that the strength and unity shown were a warning to New York Gov. George Pataki: "This is just the beginning."

In recent weeks, protesters have also temporarily blocked traffic on the Southern Tier Expressway--Route 17--with burning tires.


At issue are the Senecas' historic treaty guarantees to be free of taxation as sovereign nations.

These treaties say that Native nations have an absolute right to defend their economic and political sovereignty. Yet a 1994 U.S. Supreme Court decision violated these treaty rights by giving a legal green light to the states to impose taxes on sales made on reservation land to non-Indians.

Behind Gov. Pataki's decree that Native businesses either be taxed or be closed were the independent petroleum marketers' associations and huge retail convenience store groups, which don't want any competition.

The state is attempting to divide Native nations against one another, coercing some into agreeing to levy taxes on sales of gasoline, cigarettes and other merchandise. Gasoline stations and tobacco shops located on reservation lands along the major highways have been attracting non- Indian customers seeking lower prices. These tax-exempt sales have been a mainstay of the Native economy.

New York state has seized and impounded gasoline tankers and delivery trucks, refusing to honor a restraining order from the Seneca Peacemakers Court.

Without supplies, many stores and gas stations on the Allegany, Cattaraugus, Tonawanda Seneca and Tuscarora reservations have had to close, costing Native workers their jobs. The shops employ 1,200 people in western New York alone. There are few other jobs in these rural areas.

New York state has also blockaded delivery of heating oil and propane cooking gas to Native nations that have refused to sign tax agreements. Angry nations of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy) continue to defy New York State's ultimatum to sign or abide by a tax agreement. The Senecas and others have threatened to close state and city highways passing through reservation lands or to charge motorists tolls.

State troopers and National Guard troops have been massing around Haudenosaunee lands, and are looking for pretexts to raid these lands. There have been warnings from the Indigenous communities that Pataki is "dangerously close to his first Indian war." Protest organizers say, "We are not going to go away, and we are not going to give up."


Non-Indian neighbors of the Tonawanda Senecas have been bringing donuts and sandwiches to Native defenders who keep the roadside protest fires and promise to stand with them against the state. Letters pour into the "Buffalo News" demanding that the state leave Native nations alone. Petitions circulate demanding that Pataki honor Indian treaties.

In Buffalo, the National People's Campaign has taken the lead in organizing support. The NPC called a press conference April 8 at which representatives from the African-American, Latino, labor, progressive and other communities joined with Native people to demand that the threats and intimidation by New York state end at once and that Gov. Pataki immediately order the withdrawal of all troopers.

(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: ww@workers.org. For subscription info send message to: info@workers.org. Web: http://workers.org)

Date: Mon, 14 Apr 1997 12:52:23 -0400
From: ishgooda@tdi.net
To: serendipity-L
Subject: NY News Coverage (INFO)

The following via a friend in NY city:

Local CBS Channel 2
New York City Late Night News
Sunday, April 13, 1997

5 second promo during special "Chicago Hope", showing native woman beside the road: "Tax Protest Involving Native Americans"

20 second video report during the news (on 1/2 hour late because of golf), approx 11:30 pm

"Tax protest involving Native Americans turns ugly. Along Route 348 (north?) of Irving."

Video footage shows native woman standing shouting alongside road, then shows native man lying on the middle of the road with several police in helmets hitting him with clubs.

Back to SIS