George-Kanentiio: New York governor can mend rift

"Gov. Spitzer swept into office by pledging his administration would be defined by its ethics, fiscal responsibility and willingness to enact constructive changes in all areas of the state, ranging from health care reform to an emphasis on economic revitalization.

His inauguration speech was as charged with hope and determination, followed by a State of the State address that was equally powerful in its promise to shake up the way New York is governed.

We among the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois) have long sought a decisive change in the passive manner in which we were treated by former Gov. George Pataki.

Gov. Spitzer can avoid Pataki's errors by adopting a common-sense approach to Indian relations. He can begin by reviving the Office of Indian Relations and staffing it with Native personnel who are trusted by the Iroquois Confederacy. He can meet directly with Native people at our capital of Onondaga to learn of our concerns instead of having selective information pressed upon him by highly paid lobbyists.

Spitzer should discard the casinos-for-land tactic and form a joint land resolution team composed of Iroquois and state officials to investigate the failures of the previous policies and come up with tangible ways to resolve our claims without having to resort to decades-long court battles.

The governor should give serious thought to reviving the proposed 1997 Trade and Commerce Agreement, which would enable the Iroquois governments to exercise exclusive regulatory control over all reservations businesses. Assessments from those enterprises would be earmarked to pay for underfunded health, housing and education programs. The governor's decision last week to appoint Richard Rifkin as adviser on Indian affairs will crash against our concerns. Rifkin has reaffirmed Spitzer's support for expanded casino gambling in New York. Difficult as it may be for the governor to believe, not all Iroquois are not enamored of gambling, since it inevitably leads to the termination of our land claims. Sadly, it seems the governor is continuing the failed policies of his predecessor by accentuating more Indian casinos above all else."

Get the Story:
Doug George-Kanentiio: Spitzer can heal Native relations (The Albany Times-Union 1/21)

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