April 01, 2010

Obama = "town destroyer"?

Seneca Nation of Indians Accuses President Barack Obama of Deliberately Betraying Native Americans by Signing the PACT Act

The measure, which bans distribution of tobacco products via U.S. Mail, will result in the loss of some 3,000 jobs in Western New York tied to the Seneca tobacco industrySeneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder Sr. called today's signing of the PACT (Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking) Act a "deliberate betrayal" of all Native Americans.

"The President of the United States invited Native American leaders to Washington D.C. in November and looked us in the eye as a sign of good faith in his pledge to protect federal treaties," Snyder said. "Now four months later he has betrayed that promise."

"In 1779, President George Washington was referred to as 'Hanodagonyas,' an Iroquois term meaning 'town destroyer,' for his attempt to quell Native American uprisings. I think that term should be dusted off and given to Barack Obama for the economic destruction that Pact Act will cause," Snyder said.

"This is certainly not the first time a U.S. president has failed to honor federal treaty rights, but it is particularly hurtful when this country's first minority president turns his back on another group of minority Americans, it's a very personal pain and insult," Snyder added.

The Seneca leader recalled Obama's meeting with Crow Nation representatives during his election campaign, during which the Crow adopted the candidate, giving him the name "Black Eagle."

"I guess he's forgotten friends he made when he wanted votes. He is no friend to Indian Country and I would hope the Crow revoke his honorary member status," Snyder said.
Comment:  Needless to say, the situation is more complex than Snyder makes it out to be. The US and New York state governments interpret the Seneca treaties differently. I believe the courts have upheld the federal and state position.

Which doesn't mean Obama had to sign the legislation. No, he could've said, "I think this bill infringes on Seneca treaty rights. I'm going to veto it no matter how popular it is." (It passed in the US House 387-25.)

I haven't seen or heard a lot of Native support for the Seneca position. Most tribes don't know much about New York history and don't have their own tobacco businesses to protect. I doubt Indians will start turning against Obama because of this.

But it's an example of what I've said before: that I doubt Obama will take a strong pro-Indian position against the interests of the non-Indian majority. Sure, he's increased spending for Indian programs and settled the Cobell trust case, but these aren't issues with strong opposition. Here's a situation where he could've supported Indians against the popular will, but didn't.

For more on the subject, see Obama Breaks Promise to Indians and Obama's Invisible Apology.

Below:  Two anti-Seneca "town destroyers"?

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