Native Business Owners Rally for Sovereign Rights

Native American smoke shop owners from the Unkechaug and Shinnecock tribes on Long Island have formed an organization to combat a two - pronged attack on their businesses from the New York State Legislature and the Gristedes Corporation which owns supermarkets and convenience stores.

Gristedes has sued the Native American businesses on the Shinnecock Reservation, calling their tobacco sales a black market operation which supports the Hezbollah in Lebanon.

An association of convenience store owners successfully lobbied the State Legislature to impose a tax on tobacco and gasoline sold to non-Indians on the reservations. The tax has not yet been enforced.

The Long Island Native Business Association staged rallies on Wednesday June 14 at their reservations in Mastic and Southampton, shuting down traffic on Montauk highway as over 100 Native Americans and their supporters marched in support of what they say are their sovereign rights.

Native business owner, Lance Gumbs, who is also Chairman of the Trustees of the Shinnecock Nation, referring to the Gristedes Corporation and its owner, said:

"We cannot fight them. We are not a billion dollar conglomerate like Gristedes. And what's ironic about it is, the principal of Gristedes goes to Church right across the street from Shinnecock at the Greek church. He has to go down this road and he sees us and he knows our living conditions. He knows what this is about and yet he would turn around and do something like this. "

Gumbs says he has reached out to Gristedes owner John Catsimatidis through an intermediary, requesting a face to face meeting.

Unemployment is high on the reservation and the native businesses employ 75 people from Shinnecock, about 15% of adults who live on the reservation.

Gumbs says the Tribe continues to consider new businesses, such as wind generation, a gas station and a gaming casino.

This report was filed for WPKN local News - 6:30pm Monday-Friday on
WPKN 89.5 Bridgeport /WPKM 88.7 Montauk.