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Old 03-29-2006, 04:12 PM   #1
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Cigarette Factory's Federal Permit Protested

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This Message Is Reprinted Under The FAIR USE
Doctrine Of International Copyright Law:
_http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html_
(http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html)
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FROM: INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY NEWSPAPER

_http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096412716_
(http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096412716)

Cigarette Factory's Federal Permit Protested

(javascript:PrintWindow();) Posted: March 28, 2006 by: _Shannon Burns_
(http://www.indiancountry.com/author.cfm?id=602) / Today correspondent

_Click to Enlarge_ (http://www.indiancountry.com/pix/1096412716_large.jpg)
(http://www.indiancountry.com/pix/1096412716_large.jpg) Photo by
Shannon Burns -- Traditionalist Mohawks protested the Native Trading Associates
cigarette factory Feb. 24, demanding the facility either close its doors or
move off the Akwesasne reservation. They accuse NTA, which manufactures the
''Native'' brand of cigarettes, of jeopardizing the tribe's sovereignty by
allowing federal agencies to come into Akwesasne and impose a tax. AKWESASNE, N.Y.
- Sparking debate over the fine line between tribal sovereignty and federal
compliance, a cigarette manufacturing company in Akwesasne applied for and
received a federal permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives and the U.S. Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade
Bureau that requires them to pay federal taxes on the goods they produce.

Native Trading Associates manufactures the ''Native'' brand of cigarettes.

Traditionalists in the community, including representatives from both of
Akwesasne's longhouses, criticized the company and protesters gathered outside
the factory on Feb. 24 demanding that it close down or move off the
reservation. Carrying signs and handing out flyers, the group of roughly 30 protesters
accused NTA of jeopardizing the future of Indian sovereignty by allowing the
federal agencies to come into Akwesasne and impose a tax.

Criticism of NTA's move has been widespread, but the company is not backing
down from its position and believes that sovereignty is in fact being
recognized by the federal agencies, which could seize all of their products rather
than reach an agreement with the company, NTA officials said.

NTA opened its doors in 2000. Shortly after, the ATF/ATTTB suspected them of
tax evasion and began an investigation. Although NTA was only transporting
its goods from one Indian nation to another, the federal authorities require
goods being transported through their territory to be taxed when the raw
materials used to make the goods come from the United States.

''We are forced to transport our products on state and federally maintained
highways which subject NTA vehicles to federal transportation laws outside
of Mohawk territory,'' NTA said in a statement issued in February.

According to NTA officials, five truckloads of their raw materials and
finished product have been seized by the federal authorities in the past five
years, costing the company $800,000 - $1 million.

When NTA owners faced the threat of jail time and multi-million-dollar fines
for tax evasion, Susan White-Jesmer, a part-owner, announced that NTA would
be applying for a federal permit. The only other option was to close down.

''The choice in front of us is very simple,'' White-Jesmer wrote in a public
letter last summer. ''The ATTTB can bring their briefcase to our table in
recognition of our sovereignty and work out a mutually beneficial arrangement
on our terms, or the ATF can come with guns and warrants without our
permission, ignoring our sovereignty, and violently enforce federal law.''

NTA applied for the federal permit in mid-2005. Last summer, the tribe
announced that it had been approached by the ATF and was asked to grant permission
to the federal agency to inspect the NTA factory, as required by the permit
application process. The tribe responded by asking the community if a
cooperative agreement should be created between the tribe and the ATF. The response
clearly indicated that the Akwesasne community did not welcome any federal
presence, and the tribe withdrew from negotiations with the ATF/ATTTB.

''The tribal council was involved in discussions with the federal agencies
prior to the two public comment periods that were held last year, which gave
the community an opportunity to provide input on federal licensing of
cigarette manufacturers,'' said Brendan White, director of public information for the
tribe. ''The input that the tribal council received during both comment
periods assisted them in their decision-making process. It helped to clarify the
roles of all the parties on this issue. Individual Mohawks own and operate
businesses in Akwesasne and the decision to pursue a federal license is a
business decision, not a political one.''

On Feb. 14, the ATF/ATTTB announced that it had reached a settlement
agreement with NTA. NTA would pay a $2 million ''administrative forfeiture'' and
would begin paying federal tax on its cigarette products.

''I believe this agreement represents a tremendous achievement in the
administration of federal tobacco tax laws and a considerable step forward in TTB's
relationship with manufacturers on Native American reservations,'' said Mary
Ryan, assistant administrator for field operations with the ATTTB. ''We hope
that the agreement will encourage other similarly-situated cigarette
manufacturers to willingly come into compliance with the tobacco tax laws.''

Since last summer, NTA has received numerous threats, some of them violent,
from individuals in the community. However, the company has pledged to
continue doing business as usual.

''It is the position of NTA that Mohawk-owned business is good for Akwesasne
and the North Country as a whole,'' said a spokesman for NTA. ''The success
of one business should be considered a positive accomplishment; the success
of a legal business should be held as an example for our youth to show that a
positive and prosperous career through the pursuit of opportunities is a good
thing.''

Although the company is now federally regulated, its owners said they will
continue to fight the federal agencies.

''NTA spent about $1 million fighting this issue, certainly more than the
tribe or any other business has in Akwesasne,'' White said. ''NTA wants the
community to know that we are not done fighting this issue. This is only the
middle rounds. NTA has notified the feds that even though we have applied, we
are not satisfied with their rules and will continue to fight.''
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