Column: Mayor alienates Indians who helped build New York City
"Even by cell phone, you could hear the dry laugh from Oren Lyons. The Onondaga Nation faithkeeper was a passenger in a car rolling toward the Seneca Allegany Territory, where representatives of many Iroquois governments sat down Tuesday to confront an impending state tax enforcement crackdown.

The dispute was enflamed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. On a radio show last week, Bloomberg said Gov. David Paterson ought to get "a cowboy hat and a shotgun" and then tell Indian nations to "read (his) lips."

Bloomberg is the same mayor who seeks understanding for a Muslim center near ground zero, a contrast that brought the rueful chuckle from Lyons. Still, the mayor inadvertently galvanized what is not always a united front.

To those on the outside, Iroquois policy might seem guided by communal strategies. Within the Six Nations, politics are not so calm. Some governments - including Onondaga - are ruled through a traditional longhouse system. Others at Tuesday's meeting, such as the Senecas and Oneidas, have elected or appointed leaders. That can produce wide gaps in philosophy, especially on questions like casino gambling.

While the tax dispute brought everyone to the same table, Bloomberg's comments cemented the bond. Lyons traveled Tuesday with Joe Heath, a lawyer for the Onondagas, and Sid Hill, an old friend who is the tadadaho - or spiritual leader - of the Six Nations. At Allegany, they spoke of how the state - as of Sept. 1 - intends to collect taxes on Indian cigarettes sold to anyone not of native blood.

The move would eliminate a tax differential that provides revenue at just about every Iroquois territory. Convenience store operators in neighboring communities maintain they can't compete with native prices. Six Nations leaders respond that the ability to sell tobacco without the burden of state taxes is a benefit tied directly to treaty rights."

Get the Story:
Sean Kirst: Hot words galvanize those who helped to build New York (The Syracuse Post-Standard 8/25)

Relevant Documents:
ATF Letter on Tribal Consultation (May 19, 2010)

Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act:
H.R.1676 | S.1147

Related Stories:
New York tribes united in opposition to state's tobacco efforts (08/19)
Seneca Nation sues to halt state taxation of reservation tobacco (08/18)
New York mayor wants tribes shown the 'shotgun' for tax issues (8/16)
Editorial: New York must take action against tribes over tobacco (8/16)
Judge won't continue injunction against tobacco trafficking law (8/13)
Editorial: New York tribes get more business by avoiding taxes (8/13)
State to return tobacco products and truck to Seneca retailer (8/12)
Tribal retailers see business boost after New York tobacco hike (8/11)
Seneca Nation business owner blasts state seizure of tobacco (8/10)
Reward doubled over derailment attempt on Seneca Nation land (07/23)
County lawmaker eyes support on tax free Seneca Nation tobacco (7/21)
Judge extends PACT Act restraining order for Seneca businesses (7/8)
Seneca Nation smoke shops shut down mail-order operations (6/30)
Seneca Nation smoke shop gets restraining order for PACT Act (6/29)
Seneca Nation defends tobacco sales on treaty anniversary (05/24)
ATF schedules tribal consultation on tobacco trafficking law (5/20)
Obama signs cigarette trafficking bill over tribal objections (4/1)
Seneca Nation asks Obama to veto cigarette mailing bill (03/19)
Cigarette trafficking bill sent to White House for review (3/18)
Editorial: PACT Act puts a halt to Internet tobacco sales (3/17)
White House weighs stance on cigarette trafficking bill (3/16)
Seneca Nation blasts passage of cigarette trafficking bill (3/15)
Lance Morgan: PACT Act a hidden power grab for states (3/12)
Seneca Nation lobbies against cigarette trafficking bill (3/8)
New York governor proposes tobacco tax regulations (02/24)
Seneca Nation targets Sen. Gillibrand for tobacco bill (01/25)
Seneca Nation prepares for battle over cigarette taxes (1/20)
New York governor puts Indian tobacco tax in new budget (1/19)
Seneca Nation aims to defeat cigarette trafficking bill (01/12)