On March 1 New York State is scheduled to start taxing tobacco sold to non-Indians on Indian reservations. These sales are not taxed now if the tobacco is for the personal use of the buyer.
The tax law change is the result of a successful lobbying campaign by convenience store operators.
On the Unkechaug tribe's Poospatuck reservation in Mastic 40 to 50 of the 250 residents are employed in shops selling tobacco. On the Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton retail shops employ about 10 per cent of the 450 residents.
Harry Wallace, Chief of the Unkechaug, is an attorney and operates one of four shops on the reservation selling tobacco and other items.
Wallace says that customers are drawn by the tax-free tobacco. The businesses would not exist without that.
The Chief says "The new legislation is in violation of, and an attack on, Native sovereignty".
Suffolk County police have been patrolling in front of Native-owned shops since December to discourage what they say are illegal sales of tobacco in bulk for resale.
Wallace says the police action is designed to harass lawful citizens and that the police "are practicing to see how effective they can be" when the new law goes into effect.
He says if you think the new tax is unjust you can write to members of the Legislature, the State Attorney General and the Governor.
prepared for WPKN's Local News by the East End News Team.
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