This has just come in, by FAX of the original. I hope you can send it on - if you want a FAX of the copy I have, please let me know, I'll send it to you.
Without all the support possible, it is something that can happen to anyone of us---Indians, Indian Nations---or, should anyone so decide--all the rest. Contact your U.S. Representatives, whoever, please be heard. Mr. Schmidt (who originated the copy by FAX) quoted Ben Franklin --"Gentlemen, if we don't hang together now, we shall most assuredly hang separately."
Firehair--Eastern Tribal People's Support and Coalition
Grey Wolf - - Eastern Tribal Rights Association
April 27 1997
President William J. Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Clinton,
As President of the Seneca Nation of Indians, I am requesting Federal intervention between the Seneca Nation of Indians and the State of New York regarding New York's attempt to regulate our commerce within our territorial boundaries. The Attea decision only provides for the pre-collection of taxes on motor fuel and cigarette products sold to non-members. We, as a sovereign nation, maintain we have the right to regulate commerce within our own territorial boundaries as the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794 states "...Now the United States acknowledge all the lands within the aforementioned boundaries to be the property of the Seneca Nation; and the United States will never claim the same, NOR DISTURB THE SENECAS FREE USE AND ENJOYMENT THEREOF..." and the Buffalo Creek Compromise Treaty of 1842 which states: that the Seneca lands are "...FREE from all tax", which the Seneca Nation of Indians signed with the United States of America.
The following is a chronological summary of the events that have occurred since March 1997 which forms the basis for this request and illustrates the potential for further violence on the Seneca Territories, Cattaraugus, Allegany and Oil Springs Reservations.
March 1997: Discussion between Governor Pataki's office and the Seneca Nation of Indians failed to formulate an agreement before April 1, 1997 deadline that would have allowed the continued sales of gasoline, cigarettes and other tobacco products be Seneca vendors.The Seneca Nation and its residents were under siege by New York State Police on Monday morning thru Tuesday afternoon April 21-22, 1997. Through a meeting with state representatives and Seneca officials the Seneca Nation established control over activities within the tribal boundaries as long as New York State Police forces are reduced. However, the state of affairs between the Seneca Nation of Indians and New York State is fragile and the potential for violence and possible loss of human life is very real since no real progress has been made to resolve the underlying issue of New York State's infringement on our sovereignty.
Reason: Senecas will not agree to language that allows New York State to receive sales and distribution information on a weekly basis. Through information sharing our "books" would be open to the State which interferes with our Sovereign rights to self governance by regulating our own commerce within our territorial boundaries. This action indicates that New York State is assuming a paternal role and does not give full faith and credit to the Nation's ability to administer and regulate our enterprises and reservation business. The Seneca Nation is in agreement to:1) Implement its own Wholesale and Distribution Law, andApril 2, 1997: New York State, through use of New York State Police force, stop and impound gasoline shipments destined to the Seneca Reservations. New York State police presence is excessive around the Cattaraugus and Allegany Reservations. Within two weeks, tribal and individual gas stations are out of gas, employees are laid off, or hours reduced.
2) Increase sales prices on gas, cigarettes and other tobacco products; and
3) Maintain records of sales, including: amounts sold, receipts to Seneca businesses, with the intent to control abuses related to "boot legging" of said products.
April, 1997: New York State Police stated they were "attempting" to regulate traffic on Route 17 in Steamburg, NY. (Allegany Reservation) while amateur video shown on all local news stations show that Officers had their backs to traffic and were observing a tire fire. Meanwhile, a non-native gentleman from Forestville, NY came around a corner at the speed limit where no State Police were directing traffic. His vehicle smashed into the back of another vehicle and exploded, he was killed instantly. State Police Major Perez alleged that it was due to having to remove debris placed on the highway by Seneca protestors.
April 18, 1997: Seneca Nation is forced to lay off over 130 tribal employees as a direct result of loss of revenue from gas and cigarette sales. More layoffs and program cutbacks are expected. Tribal bingo operations report reduced attendance during this crisis, thus loss of more revenues.
April 20, 1997: Non-Seneca supporters organized a peaceful protest for Sunday afternoon on the Cattaraugus Reservation. A peaceful protest march ws planned for routes 5 & 20 in Irving, New York. Approximately 2000 Indian and non-Indian supporters attended this rally. As marchers walked down onto the New York State thruway, they are confronted by Major Pedro Perez, of the New York State Police. Major Perez attempted to block the marchers and told them to disband and get off the highway. As tempers flared on both sides, physical confrontation followed the verbal exchanges. Twelve (12) State Police and some marchers were injured in the scuffle. Pepper spray was used with the State Police blaming the marchers for using this product. Damages occurred to police vehicles, also. Marchers quickly retaliated by setting fires on the thruway, resulting in the closing of that road over night and similar activity on the Allegany Reservation closed the route 17 expressway. An additional 300-400 State Police officers were broguht into the Salamanca area and the Irving/Gowanda area.
April 22, 1997: At 5:00 am, on April 21, 1997, New York State placed this nation under siege with the presence of well over 400 State Troopers which used excessive force to prohibit ingress and egress on our territories with roadblocks at major entrances, lives were jeopardized and civil rights were violated. The State Police and protesters clash in the early morning hours and several Seneca People, including defenseless women, were injured. One woman was knocked unconscious with head injuries inflicted by the State Police. The Cattaraugus Indian Reservation Volunteer Fire Department (CIRVFD) established a "staging area" at the Irving Indoor Arena. Attempts to respond to the injuries resulted in harrassment and denial of access to the site at five (5) separate State Police check points. The North Collins ambulance crew attempted to respond and did finally get on site only to be told by the State Police that everything was okay and there were no injuries. State Police had removed the victim to one of the patrol cars and did not seek medical attention for over an hour for this unconscious woman. (Pam Pierce of Irving, NY) Later, Richard Jemison, a Tribal Councillor, was in an altercation with State Police and received a head injury. He was later processed on assault charges. A total of 24 people, mostly Senecas, were arrested and charged. State Police closed the roads to the Cattaraugus Reservation, denying residents passage to their dialysis treatments, doctors access to the health clinics and nurses denied access to their home health care patients. New York State Troopers stopped and searched school buses for weapons, frightening our 3 to 4 year old children and preventing our older children access to education. A Peacemaker Judge for the Cattaraugus Reservation when attempting to leave was told by a State Trooper that he might not be able to get back on the reservation after leaving. As a result, his scheduled court cases had to be cancelled on the Allegany Reservation, interfering with his ability to conduct his duties. The Laidlaw busing company was denied access to pick up reservation students attending Lake Shore Central School. Silver Creek Central School did not send a bus to pick up reservation students and Gowanda Central School did not send a bus to pick up reservation students, Gowanda Central School closed for the day. On the Allegany Reservation, Salamanca City schools remained open and utilized alternate routes available to pick up reservation students. By State Police blocking and closing transportation routes to the reservation, it caused further panic and frustration to the Seneca People.
The Seneca Nation was informed that a delegation representing the governor's office would arrive in Dunkirk, New York at 4:00 pm wanting to meet Seneca officials, in hopes of resoving the violent and critical situation currently existing between New York and the Senecas.
April 22, 1997: Again, State Police stop and search Seneca Nation Head Start busses which were picking up and transporting 3 & 4 year old children to the Head Start pre-school program on the reservation. These small children sat in fear while State Police questioned the drivers and searched for weapons. School buses were again refused entry from the Silver Creek School in the morning and tribal members were not allowed from one end of the reservation to the other as State Police maintained a road block at the thruway overpass on route 438, route 5 & 20. A delegation of Tribal Councillors agree to meet with Pataki Delegation. Senecas informed the State that gasoline shipments this afternoon must not be impounded since this is for distribution to tribal members only. This action would help relieve some stress among tribal members who have suffered compounded losses since April 1st. A second action the Senecas and the State agreed to was to de-escalate the State Police presence on the Catteraugus and Allegany territories to levels prior to the confrontation on Sunday. The State agreed verbally to remove apparoximately 400 State Police. The Seneca Nation promised to increase our deputy marshall force for Allegany and Cattaraugus territories and work co-operatively with New York State Police to maintain peace within our boundaries. Including stopping the demonstrations and fires along highways and the N.Y.S. Thruway. On the Allegany reservation, at 9:15 a.m., 81 students staged a walk out from the Salamanca Central School district Middle and High School in protest of New York's attempt to collect taxes. This included about 64% Native American Students and 36% non-Native supporters. Students congregated at a location along route 17 expressway and started fires and held protest signs. Parents and community members worked quickly to disperse the protest fearing the State Police would retaliate against our children with physical force. No confrontation resulted between the Senecas and State Police regarding this incident. However, the children's actions served as an alarm to parents, school officials and school administration realizing the need to work with our children and help bring them thru this crisis.
As President of the Seneca Nation, I am urging you to immediately honor this request for your intervention to assist the Seneca Nation and New York State in resolving this major issue without bloodshed.
Michael W. Schindler, President
SENECA NATION OF INDIANS
cc: John Emerson, Deputy Assistant to the President
Janet Reno, Attorney General, Dept. of Justice
Benjamin Knighthorse Campbell, Senator
Daniel K. Inouye, Senator
Louise Slaughter U.S. Congresswoman