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Bloomberg's remarks on cigarette tax anger Indians

American Indians blasted Mayor Michael Bloomberg Monday on the steps of City Hall for what they characterized as racist and inflammatory remarks about enforcing cigarette tax laws.

With some tribal members decked out in traditional garb, leaders of a number of Indian nations including the Unkechaug Nation and Shinnecock Nation of Long Island sounded off about Bloomberg's recent remarks on a radio program.

According to the tribe members, during an Aug. 13 program, Bloomberg rhetorically pushed Gov. David A. Paterson to enforce the tax laws on cigarettes. "I've said this to Dave Paterson, I said you know 'Get yourself a cowboy hat and 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,' " Bloomberg said.

In a statement released at the City Hall rally, Chief Harry B. Wallace of the Unkechaug Nation said, "The image of a cowboy and a shotgun on the highways of New York does not represent law and order, but a history of repression, violence and cultural genocide."

Lance Gumbs, a senior trustee for the Shinnecock tribe, said Bloomberg's statements were as offensive as if a Jew was reminded of the Gestapo or blacks of the Ku Klux Klan.

Bloomberg wouldn't comment on the comments by the tribal leaders, according to a spokesman.

Tribal officials also pointedly noted that just prior to the rally that Bloomberg put out a statement lauding the city's recent win in a federal appeals court that upheld a lower-court ruling enjoining cigarette dealers on the Poospatuck Indian reservation from selling untaxed cigarettes. The city had sued the tribe after some members allegedly sold cigarettes on which state and city taxes were not paid, a violation of federal law.

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