Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 18, 2013

Gov. Cuomo talks tough with Indians over casinos


Niagara Gazette — Cuomo has taken a hard stance before on Indian issues. After nearly two decades of failed efforts to tax Indian cigarettes, the Cuomo administration in 2011 began seizing untaxed cigarettes and tobacco products sold to non-Indians. In two years, 122,680 cartons of unstamped cigarettes were seized.

The decision was not without risks. In 1997, when the state tried to collect a tax on Indian cigarette sales, protesters lit tire fires and shut down a 30-mile stretch of the New York state Thruway that bisects Seneca land near the Pennsylvania line.

Cuomo's public hard line contrasts with the tack his father took when he was New York's secretary of state in 1977. Mario Cuomo helped negotiate an end to a tense three-year occupation by Mohawks of land at Moss Lake in the Adirondacks, which led to the creation of the Ganienkeh encampment.

"The philosophy was never push anybody into corner, find out what really they're looking for," said Lou Grumet, then a special assistant to Mario Cuomo handling negotiations with the Indians.

Grumet recalls stomping into Cuomo's office one day, upset that the Indians had changed terms on what looked like a deal. Grumet suggested calling state troopers in to teach them a lesson. Mario Cuomo responded by telling Grumet to contact the wife of a trooper they worked with and tell her the secretary of state was going to buy the family a big Christmas dinner.

Grumet asked why, and Cuomo responded: "Tell her that my young hothead has just lost his temper and her husband is likely to be shot in a pitched battle right after Christmas and we want her to spend the last Christmas nicely."

Grumet went back to the negotiating table and struck a deal.

More than three decades later, the St. Regis Mohawks cited slot machines at Ganienkeh when they began withholding state casino payments.

With mug of Cuomo Andrew Cuomo Putting on pressure

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Do you think cigarette sales to non-Native American customers should be taxed on reservations?

Yes. Items should be taxed like they are everywhere else.
No, the indian reservations are sovereign land and they are selling them on their land.
Not up to me. Native Americans decide the rules on their land.
Don't care. Smoking isn't good for you.
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