Although Seneca Nation of Indians' officials think action taken Thursday by the U.S. Senate could cost the area 1,000 jobs, others are praising the action, which will next go to thefor a vote.
The measure, the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act, would prohibit tobacco products produced and sold by Native American businesses to be mailed through the U.S. Postal Service. Although the bill was previously passed by the House of Representatives, minor changes made by the Senate will result in the bill's return to the House for another vote.
"The PACT Act will deal a destructive blow to the private sector economy at the Seneca Nation and have negative repercussive effects on all of Western New York," said Richard Nephew, chairman of the nation's governing body, the Seneca Nation and co-chairman of their Foreign Relations Committee.
"Cigarettes should not be sold in the mail or anywhere else to children or minors," said U.S..
"We greatly appreciate and have supported the role of the Seneca in economic development in Western New York, and will continue to work with them," he said, adding, that work will include discussions for preventing cigarettes from "ending up in the hands of minors."
"The passage of the PACT Act should draw outrage and opposition from every corner of Indian Country. This is not so much about tobacco consumption as it is about who profits from it. Aside from tobacco, all Indian nations should be concerned about the federal government's attempt to confer further jurisdictional power to states over Indian Territories; this invites much trouble," he said.
J.C.Seneca, councilor and co-chairman of the Seneca Nation Foreign Relations Committee suggests the action is part of a broader effort to diminish Native economic gains.
"The ultimate effect of this legislation makes it clear that termination era policies to eradicate Indians and treaty rights in New York and across this country are alive and well," said Seneca. He said the act "turns the clock back" on Indians to lead them to dependency.
"We will take every measure to defend and protect our treaties; those that our ancestors secured and protected for us so that we will continue to enjoy those rights today and in the future," he said.
Seneca noted that the implications of the PACT Act extend beyond New York state and have the potential to thwart Native sovereignty and the Nation-to-Nation relationships that have long been established. Seneca further called upon the Obama administration to uphold its commitments to Indian Country and said the Nation is launching a new voter outreach campaign to raise awareness about voting records of incumbents and their votes' implications to the Western New York economy.