Senecas defend right to sell tax-free tobacco

After a ceremony this morning to commemorate a 168-year-old treaty, Seneca Nation officials defended their right to sell tobacco products tax-free despite new federal legislation banning tobacco shipment by mail.

Tribe council chairman Richard E. Nephew acknowledged tobacco is not the greatest commodity to try to build an economy around but said the Treaty of Canandaigua and Buffalo Creek Treaty clearly define the nation’s right to do so.

“We’re not defending tobacco use,” he said after the ceremony at the Burchfield Nature and Art Center. “We’re defending our right to have an economy in our territory. The Canandaigua Treaty promises us fair use enjoyment of our land. We take that to mean govern ourselves, the right to prosper, the right to engage in activities that benefit our people.”

The Buffalo News reported last week that members of the Seneca Nation held a large banner along President Obama’s route during his visit to Buffalo criticizing him for signing the legislation.

Leslie Logan, communications director for the Senecas, recalled traveling to Washington to attend Obama’s inauguration in the hope that Indians everywhere had “a new and different president.” But when Obama signed the anti-tobacco legislation that affected the Senecas more than any other native community, Logan said, she felt “disappointed and dismayed.”

Seneca and state and local officials gather each year at this site along the Buffalo Creek to commemorate the 1842 treaty, which the tribe honored in 2004 by placing a stone and plaque (pictured above) along the creek. This morning’s event included speeches and the Faithkeepers School Singers and Iroquois Legion Drums.

“We come here every year to tell the world that we remember the pacts with state and federal government and to help remember those important guarantees,” said Nephew.


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