Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

March 6, 2014

John Kane, Mohawk: 'Economy? We don't need no stinking economy'

Economy? We Don't Need No Stinking Economy!

By John Karhiio Kane, Mohawk

John Kane
I haven't weighed in much on Canada's Bill C-10 issues but in the overall scheme of things it is no different than any of the others on the long list of anti-Native laws, regulations and policies that Canada and the U.S. have attempted to impose on our people and lands for centuries and, of course, this includes their provinces and states, as well. It all boils down to an attempt to control, marginalize and criminalize our people.
It is particularly ironic that participation in a trade industry that has been ours for thousands of years — actually introduced to their ancestors by our ancestors — has been under attack since the moment we began realizing any significant economic gain from it. But the attempt by the U.S. and Canada to deny this inherent right is not the only egregious act by two of the world's biggest hypocrite nations.
Kidnapper, hostage holder and pedophile John Rolfe (d. 1622) of Pocahontas fame took the first steps to bastardize our tobacco by commercializing the product for the European market.
Philip Morris, Lorillard, R.J. Reynolds and others finished the job by turning tobacco into nicotine delivery systems praying on chemical addiction for market security. Governments and government officials raked in billions with taxes, fees, surcharges, settlements, political contributions, tobacco lobby perks and campaign contributions. Lawyers saw the same; and both tobacco and anti-tobacco lawyers got rich and famous. And while all this money was being spread, Big Tobacco continued cranking out cigarettes. These guys played every angle possible to keep up demand, supply and distribution. They even courted small, almost insignificant Native smoke shops and the low or no-tax environments we operate in. Anything for sales. But that all changed.
Soon the unholy marriage between Big Tobacco and small Native smoke shops bore an offspring that would destroy the bliss — Native-manufactured brands and products. Soon the very companies that used our people to skirt state and provincial law were writing the federal legislation to snuff us out of the business.
Now don't get me wrong, even with Big Tobacco kind of in our corner the U.S. and Canadian governments were hell bent on not letting us build an economy on this or anything else. A few Big Tobacco executives even got prosecuted for bending rules and breaking laws in dealing with the "illicit reservation tobacco trade." But once these guys lined up with the top cops it didn't matter where tobacco originally came from since Team USA and Team Canada were going lie, cheat and steal to keep us out of the game. We were now terrorists or at very least funding them. What ensued were stings, seizures and set-ups of all kinds, including creating sell-outs among Native businessmen and in tribal councils.
But our shops continue to operate and Native brands and Native-produced generics continue to roll off our shelves. Criminalizing our businesses has not stopped them. It has just made it easier to call us criminals.
And while the tobacco sideshow keeps everyone distracted, Canada and the U.S. eye what's left of our lands and resources all the while calculating how they might separate us from both. Even as most territories wallow in poverty and the majority of Native people live ghetto lives in the cities where they have been removed, coal, gas, oil and tar are raped from our lands leaving destruction that would make George Washington and John Sullivan proud. While people freeze to death in their homes due to the very extreme weather caused by the world's "fat takers," diamonds, minerals, lumber, water and energy resources are stripped from our lands leaving wastelands behind as well as cancer, tainted fish and wildlife, polluted water and a stench in the air. And this while poison seeps out of our own Mother in radioactivity and other seen and unseen dangers.
Almost no economic benefit ever makes it back to the people from all this exploitation and the little that does only seems to validate or encourage the practice. More jobs are created for cleanup of the inevitable disasters associated with raping the planet. But, of course, real cleanup is impossible. The fact of the matter is that Americans and Canadians are neither the users of these energy resources nor are they beneficiaries of their revenue either — except those Americans and Canadians that pocket the money on the sales to China. The U.S. broke records last month exporting more than a billion gallons of crude and petroleum products in a single week ending on February 21. So all the hype about domestic supply and energy security is as big a lie as the whole "Tobacco and Terrorism" scam.
China has invested billions of dollars into the tar sands oil extraction in Alberta and it's not to build a better Canada. It is to pull billions and billions of dollars out of our Mother and do it at the greatest rate and scale possible. The majority of Americans and Canadians are ignorant about the issues at stake. Even in the liberal state of New York a recent poll with more than 10,000 online participants had over 51 percent saying "Frack Away," obviously believing the hype over the jobs and benefits to be had destroying the Earth. The same goes for the Keystone XL Pipeline. Far too many Canadians and Americans have bought into all the lies and propaganda associated with this international crime against humanity because they have been duped into believing they will somehow benefit from the dirtiest oil on the planet flowing from Canada to the Texas Gulf so it can be sold to China.
This is not irony. This is criminal. While the U.S. and Canada legislate to prevent any economy from developing or meagerly continuing on Native lands they rape the land they stole from us or are stealing from us. This is all being done while they lie to their own people and destroy the ground beneath their feet.
I am not a fan of what the white man did to our tobacco but I would rather be a criminal farmer, even of tobacco, than a lawful destroyer of the planet.
– John Karhiio Kane, Mohawk, a national expert commentator on Native American issues, hosts two weekly radio programs — “Let’s Talk Native…with John Kane,” ESPN Sports Radio WWKB-AM 1520 in Buffalo, N.Y., Sundays,9-11 p.m. EST and “First Voices Indigenous Radio,” WBAI-FM 99.5 in New York City, Thursdays, 9-10 a.m. EST. John is a frequent guest on WGRZ-TV’s (NBC/Buffalo) “2 Sides” and “The Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter” in Albany. John’s “Native Pride” blog can be found at He also has a very active "Let's Talk Native...with John Kane" group page on Facebook.

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