May 16, 1997
The Honorable Janet Reno
Attorney General of the United States
The Department of Justice
Dear General Reno:
We are writing with regard to the increasingly troublesome situation in the State of New York involving the Seneca Nation of Indians and State authorities. As you know, in recent weeks there have been confrontations between State Troopers and members of the Seneca nation over the levying of certain State sales taxes on sales of gasoline and tobacco products on tribal land. On May 14, 1997, the Supreme Court of the State of New York held the actions of the Department of Taxation and Finance in pressing the so-called 'Indian Agreements' "beyond its delegated authority, ultra vires, and unlawful." New York State Department of Taxation and Finance v. William A. Bramhall, et al., No. 97/3151 and No. 97/3152 at 10 (May 14, 1997). Notwithstanding Bramhall, the stand-off continues.
Though the Seneca Nation and the State of New York have engaged in discussions to rectify this situation, it appears that these negotiations have broken down. As a consequence, the potential for further confrontations will be further exacerbated. Without arguing the merits of the respective parties to this dispute, we believe that federal intervention is necessary and strongly urge you to appoint a mediator to lay the foundation for substantive dialogue.
Consistent with the Department's government-to-government approach to federal Indian Matters, the appointment of such a mediator would assist the parties in negotiating the pre-conditions necessary to bring about a peaceful resolution of the matter.
We look forward to your favorable response.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell
Daniel K. Inouye