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Nation-Nation Trade Dominates USET

By Charles Flowers

MICCOSUKEE – Leaders of 23 Southern and Eastern Tribes met at the new, $50 million Miccosukee Resort & Casino on the edge of the Everglades, and discussed trade agreements for the new millennium that may resurrect ancient trade relationships.

Think of it, begs a website started by the Oneida Nation but soon to resurface as a United South & Eastern Tribes (USET) project, tribes can sell products to each other as they did hundreds of years ago – Oneida textiles for Cherokee bottled water, Seminole Swamp Seasoning for Choctaw plastic dinnerware, etc.

Already, the Oneida and Mashantucket Pequot Nations are buying coffee that has been imported, ground and packaged by a tiny Long Island tribe.

Nearly two dozen members of this association have businesses from unique arts and crafts to the sixth largest Burger King franchise in the United States (operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama). Tribes may find natural liaisons to grow these businesses in Indian Country.

“Trade between Indian nations is growing,” said Maria Stamoulas, a Washington, D.C. consultant, who chaired the discussion on nation-to-nation trade. “There is a lot of interest among USET nations. It’s rebuilding trade routes, and it’s taking it one step beyond, to cyberspace.”

Eric Facer, Stamoulas’ partner, also consults with the Oneidas on taxation issues.

“Because of their sovereign status, tribes can move products across state lines without severe state interference. That is good for nation-to-nation trade,” he said.

Added Dan Umstead, manager of Internet Services for the Oneida Nation:

“We want this to be restricted. We are concerned with other businesses getting in and claiming to be native.”

Umstead has started a forum on the subject, — currently on the Internet at bbs.oneida-nation.net where prospective or ongoing businesses can post information. The site will change its name within a month, he said, to reflect the USET support.

Other Indian trade organizations seeking to expand through the Internet include the National Tribal Development Association (www.ntda.rockyboy.org), representing 36 tribes throughout Indian Country. The NTDA, based in Box Elder, Mont., is chaired by Merle Boyd of the Sac & Fox Nation of Oklahoma. The Seminole Tribe also runs the Indian Circle web ring (www.indiancircle.com), which links most federally-recognized tribes — including the Oneida Nation – for the purpose of sharing resources.

The 30th anniversary meeting honored members of the four tribes who met to plan the group in 1968, and incorporated a year later. Former Miccosukee chairman Buffalo Tiger, and past Seminole Tribe chair Betty Mae Jumper, were honored with blankets and ceremonial Miccosukee patchwork jackets. Many past USET presidents were also honored.

The USET meeting, held the week of the release of the National Gambling Impact Study (see related article), also featured much discussion on gaming. More than half (13) of the member tribes engage in some form of tribal gaming, according to USET President Keller George.

Among the 25 resolutions affirmed by the delegates, was one opposing the Istook proposal (HR 1814) to remove Indian lands from trust status unless the tribes have agreements in place with all affected governments to pay taxes on retail sales to non-Indians. The proposal is viewed as a continuation of the attack on tribal sovereignty by the Oklahoma representative, Ernest Istook.

They also passed:

A resolution (99:37) supporting an amendment to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 to change the definition of tribal lands. The current definition, as “all lands within the exterior boundaries of any Indian reservation and all dependent Indian communities” limits tribal jurisdiction over its lands, the group said

Resolution 99:39, opposing the Internal Revenue Service in a lawsuit filed against Hazel Saunooke, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokees. The IRS seeks to tax Ms. Saunooke for leasing proceeds earned from leasing reservation properties. The case is styled Saunooke v. Commissioner.

Resolution 99:43, endorsing the $15 million Indian Health Service budget. A related resolution (99:45) supports funding for a National Native American AIDS Prevention Center. The group noted that sexually transmitted disease rates have declined for every population in the United States except for Native Americans.

Resolution 99:48, authorized a committee to coordinate the formation of a USET regional athletic association. If successful, the new association could sanction, book, and promote professional sporting events, such as the boxing matches now staged at resorts from Mohegan and Foxwoods in Connecticut, to Miccosukee in Florida.

The next USET meeting is set for Oct. 25-28, hosted by the Oneida Nation in New York.

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