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WASHINGTON -- The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) asked the U.S. Senate to honor trade treaties and tribal sovereignty by amending the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act, according to Indian Country Today.
During its mid-year conference in Niagara Falls, N.Y., the NCAI asked senators to amend the legislation, which would prohibit the U.S. Postal Service from delivering cigarettes and certain other tobacco products. The legislation would put Indian-owned mail order tobacco businesses out of operation.
The resolution asks the senate to adopt amendments to the PACT Act that honor federal treaty obligations guaranteeing free trade in Indian country, confirm that Indian nations can continue to use USPS to conduct their legal tobacco trade and ensure other governments are not empowered to override Indian tribes’ sovereign authority to govern their territories, the publication noted.
The U.S. Postal Service is the only remaining delivery system open to Indian-owned mail order tobacco businesses. While the act prohibits USPS from delivering cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, it provides no such prohibition on the delivery of cigars, according to Indian Country Today.
The NCAI noted tribal nations have "traditionally and routinely enacted tribal laws to control all activity within [their] territories," citing the Seneca Nation’s Import-Export Law, "a comprehensive revenue and regulatory law governing the sale of tobacco and other retail products within Seneca Nation Territories."
The resolution names the Seneca Nation of Indians as an example of a tribe that has a treaty—the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua—which includes a "guarantee that the U.S. will never permit anyone to disturb the Seneca Nation ... in the free use and enjoyment of its lands," and noted "other Indian tribes enjoy similar privileges and immunities."
The Seneca Nation licenses hundreds of tribal individuals and businesses that are represented by the Seneca Free Trade Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing commerce and industry within the nation’s territories. A 75-cent-per-carton import tax is levied on retailers and the revenue generated is expended on social services for tribal members.
Businesses that violate a prohibition against selling cigarettes to minors have their licenses revoked.
Approximately 95 percent of the mail order tobacco industry is run by Indian businesses, the publication noted.
The PACT was sponsored by Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. Congress passed the bill May 21, by a vote of 397 to 11. Action in the U.S. Senate was expected this summer.
Blazing a New Tobacco Road