Seneca Nation of Indians Calls House Approval of PACT Act a ‘Sucker Punch’ to Treaty Rights
CATTARAUGUS TERRITORY, N.Y., March 17 /PRNewswire/ — The Seneca Nation of Indians today denounced the U.S. House of Representatives approval of the PACT (Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking) Act as a blatant attack on Native American Treaty Rights.
If signed into law by President Obama, the PACT Act will bar Native American tobacco businesses from using the U.S. Postal Service for shipment of their products. Loss of that critical distribution channel will cripple the Seneca tobacco industry and result in the loss of more than 1,000 native and non-native jobs.
“This is a sucker punch to our federal treaty rights,” said Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder Sr. “This is a direct assault on our economy and our people. And it will have a devastating ripple effect on the Western New York economy.”
Snyder said it is now up to President Obama to “do the right thing” and veto the PACT Act when it reaches his desk.
“During his 2008 presidential campaign Obama promised to go beyond a government-to-government relationship with Native Americans to create a nation-to-nation relationship. In November we met with him as the first step in that effort. Now we call on him to honor his pledge by protecting our treaties,” Snyder said. “We are looking to the president for true leadership in our battle to maintain federal treaty rights.”
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.
“Let’s call this what it is…a victory for Philip Morris and other global tobacco companies to wipe out competition anyway they can. They put 40,000 cases of cigarettes into the hands of minors every year, that’s more cigarettes than we sell in a year. This isn’t a victory for health and anti-smoking efforts,” Snyder said.
Snyder, General Counsel Robert Odawi Porter, Councillors JC Seneca and Brad John traveled to Washington, D.C. today for a final round of in-person lobbying before the House vote.
Meetings with Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) and Chris Lee (R-Clarence) proved nonproductive, with both congressmen voting in favor of the measure.
“It is difficult to comprehend how our elected officials can vote for something that will kill more than 1,000 jobs. It’s extremely disappointing,” Snyder said.
JC Seneca, Co-Chairman of its Foreign Relations Committee (FRC), said the PACT Act’s economic impact will be widespread.
“If this becomes law, more than 1,000 people will lose their jobs, those workers’ families will have less money to spend at businesses both on and off the reservation,” Seneca said. “This attempt by Congress to return us to the days of want, squalor and dependency will not succeed. We’ll find ways to weather this economic storm and keep fighting for our future.”
In addition to wiping out more than 1,000 Western New York jobs, an end to U.S. Post Office shipments of Native American tobacco to phone and online purchasers, will result in significant revenue losses to the Postal Service. Seneca tobacco sellers estimate they spend more than $250 million a year to mail their products to buyers.
“It’s ironic that the federal government is willing to forego more than a quarter of a billion dollars in revenues when the Postal Service is closing post offices and cutting service because of financial problems,” Seneca said.
Seneca tobacco shipments dominate business at several small post offices on and close to the Seneca Cattaraugus and Allegany Territories, including offices in Irving, Silver Creek, Versailles and Lawtons.
Richard Nephew, Seneca Council Chairman and Co-Chairman of the FRC, said the House vote marks a “win for big tobacco and sad day for Native Americans.”
“Big tobacco is losing ground to cheaper brands sold in Indian County and now all the states have the ability to regulate the competition out of existence. We call on President Obama, who was adopted by the Crow Nation as “Black Eagle,” to consult with Native Nation leaders as he reviews this legislation,” Nephew said.
The Nation’s Foreign Relations Committee (FRC) has focused considerable attention Tobacco trade is a key component of the Seneca Nation economy. The Nation 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).
Media Contact: Sharon Linstedt/Susan Asquith Travers Collins & Company firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
SOURCE The Seneca Nation of Indians