Angry tribes to rally after Bloomberg's 'cowboy' remark
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Native American outrage over New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's broadcast advice to Gov. David A. Paterson to "get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun" to collect Indian cigarette taxes will extend into next week with a rally at City Hall.
Harry Wallace, chief of the Unkechaug Indian Nation of Mastic, a frequent target of the mayor, said Friday he was organizing the rally Monday to "demand an apology and voice our position on this issue." Representatives for the Seneca Nation and the Mohawk tribe are scheduled to attend, he said.
Native American tribes and organizations have been in an uproar since Bloomberg made the comments on his radio show on Aug. 13.
On the air, Bloomberg noted a threatened shutdown of the New York State Thruway by the Seneca Tribe if the state tries to collect the sales tax. This year's state budget mandates collection of the taxes.
"I've said this to David Paterson, I said, you know, 'Get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun. If there's ever a great video, it's you standing in the middle of the New York State Thruway saying, you know, "Read my lips - the law of the land is this, and we're going to enforce the law," ' " Bloomberg said.
The comments drew swift responses from tribes.
"Your comment was a throwback to an earlier time when matters of rights were settled at a point of a gun," Brian Patterson, president of the United South and Eastern Tribes, a coalition of Native Americans, wrote to Bloomberg.
Seneca Nation President Barry Schneider demanded Bloomberg apologize or resign from office. The National Congress of American Indians condemned his "violent words."
"Legal disagreements between governments require responsible leadership and diplomacy and not reckless calls for violence," the group's president Jefferson Keel wrote.
Lance Gumbs, a National Congress official, trustee of the Shinnecock Tribe and smokeshop owner, said, "We can no longer stay silent on issues like this that make native people and our communities fair game for any politician who wants to control our tribal economies."
The Bloomberg administration has been the primary torch bearer of the campaign to crack down on untaxed cigarette sales to nontribal members, including through a series of legal actions against the Unkechaug tribe.
"The Unkechaug know only too well the racially discriminatory practices of the Mayor of New York, because they have been directed solely at the Unkechaug for the past five years," Wallace said in a statement. "Now it seems, he is attempting to expand his reach and include the Seneca and other Native communities in New York State."
Bloomberg spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti said the mayor had no comment on the planned rally or calls for an apology.