The Skydancer Smoke Shop on East Bayard Street in Seneca Falls. Photo by Greg Cotterill, Finger Lakes News Radio.

NY Cayugas Contest Out-of-State Tribe Smoke Shop

ICTMN Staff
12/30/10

The Cayuga Indian Nation of New York was contacting state and Seneca County officials to stop the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma from selling untaxed cigarettes and gas from its Seneca Falls convenience shop, reported auburnpub.com.

But the store, which opened one month ago, just temporarily closed, according to the tribe, because its tobacco supplier pulled out.

The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma plans to reopen its smoke shop and convenience store on its ancestral land in New York. “We intend to reopen in a few days,’’ Chief LeRoy Howard told The Syracuse Post-Standard.

The New York Cayugas have objected to the Oklahoma-based Cayugas selling tax-free tobacco in New York.

Attorneys representing the Cayuga Nation sent a letter to Seneca County District Attorney Barry Porsch requesting immediate action to prevent the sale of untaxed items from the out-of-state tribe's Skydancer Smoke Shop. They claim the Oklahoma tribe is not recognized by the New York state government as having a reservation in New York, denying tax exemption.

A letter was originally sent to Gov. David Paterson and the state Department of Taxation. When action was not taken, the tribe turned to Porsch.

“We believe that this commercial activity by the Seneca-Cayuga is unlawful in as much as this convenience store is not situated on the Tribe’s ’qualified reservation,’ as that term is defined by the New York Tax Law,” stated the letter signed by attorney Daniel French. “This conclusion is self-evident since the Seneca-Cayuga do not have a ’qualified reservation’ anywhere within the state. Further, without a ‘qualified reservation,’ the Seneca-Cayuga cannot enjoy the status of being a reservation seller.”

The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma argue their convenience stores in Seneca Falls and Union Springs are located on the nation’s recognized reservation.

The Cayuga Nation of New York recently visited court on accusations by the Seneca and Cayuga counties that the tribe illegally sold untaxed cigarettes. The State Court of Appeals, ruled the tribe is a “qualified reservation” with the right to sell untaxed cigarettes from its stores.

That said, judges noted the state holds authority to collect taxes on sales to non-Indian customers, though a system needed to be put in place.

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