May 20/97: Gas gets to Seneca -- for now


May 20, 1997

[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. It may contain biased and distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context.]

CATTARAUGUS INDIAN RESERVATION (AP)--Aided by New York courts, the embattled Seneca Nation of Indians filled up on gasoline supplies Saturday after breaching a six-week-long state blockade.

"As far as I know, every gas tanker that's come up here has gotten through," said businessman Kevin Seneca. "We've had five at our two stations alone and we're full."

But on Sunday, the president of the Seneca Nation said that the state had resumed their blockade.

"The tax people are stopping shipments by PRO oil," said Michael Schindler of the nation's main supplier of oil. "They were attempting to deliver loads, but they were turned back."

Deliveries had been turned back at roadblocks manned by troopers and tax department agents since April 1, when Gov. George Pataki moved to resolve the state's struggle to raise prices at reservations on cigarettes and gas sold to non-Indians.

Pataki wants to quell complaints by off-reservation merchants who have trouble competing against tax-free Indian businesses, but the Senecas and other tribes believe any intervention would undermine their sovereign rights.

Negotiations are at a standstill, the state shows no sign of budging, "but we're going to work our way through this," said Schindler.

"It might be that we have to suffer a bit," he said. "There's some people out there with nothing. I hope they understand that by taking our position here, we're protecting our sovereignty."

Gas stations and convenience stores had been able to fill up on supplies and reopen for business since Friday, a day after a Buffalo judge ruled New York overstepped its authority in seizing gas and tobacco deliveries.

The ruling by state Supreme Court Judge Rose Sconiers was successfully challenged by Pataki attorneys Friday afternoon, but US Appellate Judge Samuel Green then vacated the automatic stay after hearing arguments from both sides.

Schindler said the trucks were allowed to come on the reservation until noon Sunday.

The Pataki administration did not return calls seeking comment Sunday.

The standoff has thrown at least 1,000 people out of work on the reservation. Many of the 6,700 residents depend for their livelihood on sales of motor fuel and tobacco at dozens of gas stations and smoke shops.

The renewed shipments put some of those people back to work this weekend, but others have taken jobs elsewhere to see them through the crisis, said Seneca, a member of one of the territory's powerful business families.

"They've got family--they couldn't wait around for us to finish the strike because they didn't know how long the strike was going to take," he said.

"It's just a matter of getting everything rolling."

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