Seneca Nation of Indians Accuses President Barack Obama of Deliberately Betraying Native Americans by Signing the PACT Act
The measure, which bans distribution of tobacco products via U.S. Mail, will result in the loss of some 3,000 jobs in Western New York tied to the Seneca tobacco industry
CATTARAUGUS TERRITORY, N.Y., April 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder Sr. called today's signing of the PACT (Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking) Act a "deliberate betrayal" of all Native Americans.
"The President of the United States invited Native American leaders to Washington D.C. in November and looked us in the eye as a sign of good faith in his pledge to protect federal treaties," Snyder said. "Now four months later he has betrayed that promise."
"In 1779, President George Washington was referred to as 'Hanodagonyas,' an Iroquois term meaning 'town destroyer,' for his attempt to quell Native American uprisings. I think that term should be dusted off and given to Barack Obama for the economic destruction that Pact Act will cause," Snyder said.
"This is certainly not the first time a U.S. president has failed to honor federal treaty rights, but it is particularly hurtful when this country's first minority president turns his back on another group of minority Americans, it's a very personal pain and insult," Snyder added.
The Seneca leader recalled Obama's meeting with Crow Nation representatives during his election campaign, during which the Crow adopted the candidate, giving him the name "Black Eagle."
"I guess he's forgotten friends he made when he wanted votes. He is no friend to Indian Country and I would hope the Crow revoke his honorary member status," Snyder said.
The Seneca people and all Native Americans have also been betrayed by the majority of federal lawmakers who voted in favor of the PACT Act which will bar Native American tobacco businesses from using the U.S. Postal Service, according to Snyder.
That list includes all members of Congress representing Western New York, including Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Representatives Brian Higgins and Chris Lee. Rep. Louise Slaughter didn't even bother to vote.
"Our elected officials have turned their collective backs on the Seneca Nation. We will not forget how we were treated and neither will the thousands of local residents who will soon be unemployed because of this blow to our economy," Snyder said.
The Seneca have maintained that the PACT Act, which has been promoted as an anti-smoking measure aimed at keeping cigarettes out of the hands of under-age smokers, is really a push by big tobacco companies to squeeze out Native American competition and protect market share.
The Seneca Nation maintains the measure, which has attracted strong support and lobbying efforts from mainstream tobacco corporations, led by Philip Morris, is an overt attempt by big cigarette corporations to simply stomp out any market competition.
Snyder singled out the bravery of South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who stood up for treaty rights, despite pressures from the big tobacco lobby.
"Congresswoman Sandlin, whose district includes Rosebud and Yankton Sioux nations, had the backbone to point out that the PACT Act will open the door for states to bring felony changes against tribes and tribal businesses. If only our Western New York lawmakers had this same respect for tribal sovereignty," Snyder said.
JC Seneca, a tribal councillor and co-chair of the Nation's Foreign Relations Committee (FRC), said other tobacco business owners will face tough decisions over the next three months.
"We have at least 90 days from the signing before the postal delivery ban goes into effect, so we'll all be looking at ways to adapt and save as many jobs as possible," Seneca said.
Seneca, who owns retail and wholesale tobacco businesses, as well as sports and entertainment operations, said he is evaluating reallocating his workforce to keep staff employed.
"This is devastating for the Seneca Nation, the businesses and all the employees, but it won't take us down. We've been pushed around by the government for centuries and we keep finding ways to survive," Seneca said.
Tobacco trade is a key component of the Seneca Nation economy and it estimates enforcement of the PACT Act could result in up to a 65 percent loss in Import/Export revenue which it uses to fund health and education programs.
The Nation has a state-of-the-art stamping and enforcement mechanism that ensures compliance with a rigorous set of internal regulations, including retailer authorization, minimum pricing and a ban on sale to minors. The Nation works in close partnership with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Enforcement (ATF).
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