Guest blog: NY State may be awash in red ink, but a state taxing the indigenous Seneca Nation is unconstitutional

Editor’s note: This blog article was written by James Williamson, one of my younger brothers, who is an Ohio native and, for now, an Alaska resident (his employer, a company owned by Alaskan Natives, soon plans to transfer him to another office in another state).  James married a woman from among the indigenous Otavalo people of Ecuador, so his learning curve pertaining to indigenous American peoples is fairly steep.  James has written three prior guest blog pieces for Buckeye RINO that dealt with recent schisms between states and the federal government.  In the last two guest blog pieces, Imminent Rebellion: The Tar Pit, and Imminent Rebellion: the new Fort Sumter, the federal government and several states, most notably Arizona, do not see eye to eye on the immigration issue.  His initial guest blog piece Imminent Rebellion: States vs the Federal Government spotlighted the rising tide of states reasserting their 10th Amendment rights, such as Texas, with its governor, Rick Perry, openly talking about secession.  The state of New York has not seceded, but they are acting like a nation unto themselves when they ignore treaties between the USA and indigenous tribes, such as the Seneca Nation (counted among the league of Iroquois Nations), with their latest tax grab scheme.  NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, representing a city with a voracious appetite for tax revenues collected beyond the city limits, stated he’d grab a cowboy hat and a shotgun to forcibly seize money from the Senecas on behalf of a fiscally irresponsible New York State.

Don’t Mess with the Natives!

Recently I read an article that caught me by surprise.  The mayor of our nations largest city is calling for the governor of New York to grab “a cowboy hat and a shotgun” and beat the natives into submission.  You can read the text here:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/08/19/seneca-nation-wants-bloomberg-cowboy-hat-shotgun-comment/

And the follow-up article here:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/08/21/american-indian-tribe-miffed-bloomberg-remark-sues-block-ny-cigarette-tax/

Of course the natives are not happy…

At first this may seem a trivial dispute, but what caught my attention was that the taxes were being levied upon the Iroquois Nations not by treaty, but by a state legislature.  Why is it that all dealings with American Indians in the early days of our country were by treaty and had to be signed by the president and ratified by the senate, but the governor of New York and the mayor of New York City are able to levy a tax on the Nations of the Iroquois through state legislation?

Let’s start with the U.S. Constitution, specifically Article 1 Section 2, which reads, “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”  This of course was later modified by the 14th Amendment.  You will note a striking similarity between the previous sentence and the following sentence from the 14th Amendment.  “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.’

This may appear to be trivial but I assure you it is not.  Why were the Indians (Native American tribes) not taxed?  Could it be that they were considered sovereign nations?  If they were not considered sovereign then why was it necessary to sign treaties with them and have them ratified by congress in the same manner as any other sovereign nation?   The answer of course is that they were recognized as sovereign then.  Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution states that “Congress shall have the power to regulate Commerce with foreign nations and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes”.  Sorry Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Paterson, you are not allowed by the constitution to regulate commerce with the Indian tribes.  Congress is.

Interestingly enough American Indians in their entirety were not considered citizens until 1924 with the passage of the Native American Citizenship Act.  (Everyone else got it in 1868 with the 14th Amendment.)  Even so, the first state to guarantee the right to vote was Utah in 1957.  Yes, that’s right it took longer for them than women or blacks.   But I digress…

Returning to the question of sovereignty and citizenship the 14th Amendment of the Constitution states:  “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”  Hmm… If the American Indian nations are sovereign then are they subject to the jurisdiction of the US and therefore citizens?  If the child of an ambassador is born in the US, the child may not be considered a citizen because an ambassador is not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.  They are subject to the jurisdiction of the country of their parents because they are on U.S. soil for diplomatic purposes and, as such, granted immunity (at least in theory) from U.S. laws.   So what conclusions can we draw?  Well, it would appear to me that an American Indian is only a citizen and bound by the laws of the United States if he so chooses.  Otherwise he is a citizen of, and subject to the laws of, the tribe or nation to which he belongs and not subject to the federal government of the United States or to any of the states.

Interestingly enough, the Iroquois nations are the only tribes that issue their own passports.  Yes, the very nations that are balking at this unconstitutional taxation of the Indians.  Why would they issue their own passports and refuse to travel on U.S. passports if they wanted to be counted as U.S. citizens and be subject to its laws?  See the link below for the story:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/17/sports/17lacrosse.html

Now it’s understandable the Mr. Paterson and Mr. Bloomberg would want to tax the Iroquois nations.  Their governments are bleeding red ink and they want revenue wherever they can get it.  Since they have already been squeezing the life out of everyone else, the relatively tax-free Iroquois Nations probably look like a popsicle in the middle of the fires of hell…

I would have to question the wisdom in this policy.  Is it wise to antagonize a group of people who don’t consider themselves part of your culture, race, or nation when you have already removed them from their ancestral lands, decimated their population, destroyed their culture, and deprived them of liberty?   You have taken their coat and cloak already and now you want the sandals, staff, and undergarments as well?  Why not beat up a kid for his shoes and then take his lunch money too?  Why not chase a bear into its den to take the food right out of its mouth?  What Mr. Bloomberg fails to understand is that, in the mind of the Seneca Nation, he is the bully that has been stealing their lunch for a very, very long time.  He better pray that the kid getting his lunch money taken neither finds bigger, meaner friends, nor suddenly experiences a growth spurt and gains some more muscle mass…

Next time Mr. Bloomberg pick on someone your own size.  Try riding through downtown New York City with your cowboy hat and shotgun and get the mafia bosses to comply with the law and let’s see how you fare…

One Response to “Guest blog: NY State may be awash in red ink, but a state taxing the indigenous Seneca Nation is unconstitutional”

  1. Guest blog: Tea Party will not hurt the GOP « Buckeye RINO Says:

    […] Guest blog: NY State may be awash in red ink, but a state taxing the indigenous Seneca Nation is&nbs… […]


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