"Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter raised an important point recently in Washington about the difficulties in relations between states and Indian tribes. Addressing those difficulties will require new approaches and compromises — not just by the states but by Indian tribes such as the Oneidas.
When Native American leaders from across the country met with President Barack Obama earlier this month, it was a proud moment for Halbritter, who grew out of the poverty of the Oneidas’ former trailer park on state Route 46 and has transformed his people’s fortunes through creation of business enterprises centered on Turning Stone Resort and Casino. That the president was meeting with the largest gathering of Indian leadership in memory is a signal that Native American concerns might get a greater focus in Washington than they have in the past.
Halbritter said those concerns include the actions of state governments.
“The states have historically been antagonistic to the Indians,” Halbritter said. “The state needs to be considered when we’re speaking about correcting and addressing the problems in Indian Country.”
That is certainly true, but the stance of Indian tribes needs to be considered as well. Take Oneida County, where the Oneida Nation has become the largest private employer, sells gasoline and cigarettes tax free and is now entering the cigarette manufacturing business through purchase of a Western New York firm.
All that economic development is welcome, as well as related enterprises such as the creation of the Turning Stone Resort Championship PGA Tour event in recent years. Yet left unresolved are the inequities between Nation businesses and local businesses when it comes to paying taxes. Left unresolved is the proper way to compensate the Oneidas for the land wrongfully taken from them by the state nearly two centuries ago. And left unresolved is how to close the gulf between the Nation and its neighbors."
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Our view: All must help with resolving Indian issues
(The Utica Observer-Dispatch 11/16)