Refugee Dakota First Nation forms tobacco alliance with Mohawk firm

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first_imgBy Jorge BarreraAPTN National NewsA Manitoba First Nation branded “American Indian refugees” by Ottawa has turned to the sale of Mohawk-made cigarettes and a casino to raise revenue for their cash-strapped community and escalate their battle with the federal government.Canupawakpa First Nation has struck a deal to sell cigarettes from Rainbow Tobacco, a Kahnawake, Que., tobacco company already fighting tax authorities in three other provinces.Canupawakpa Chief Frank Brown said the community, which is about 100 kilometres southwest of Brandon, Man., will begin selling Wolfpack and Deerfield cigarettes at a new smoke shop and casino unveiled Wednesday and set up near Hwy 2 and Hwy 83.The First Nation plans to sell the cigarettes and operate their casino outside Manitoba tax laws.Brown said the Dakota are a sovereign nation that never signed away any of their rights.“We are the non-treaty,” said Brown. “What we are saying is…Canada if we don’t have a treaty with you, we still hold title to our land before Canada came and we have rights, we have privileges.”Brown said the First Nation plans to sell tax-free cigarettes from their smoke shop to non-First Nations people.Brown said the First Nation will levy their own tax on the cigarettes and casino operations, which currently includes a Blackjack table, to generate revenue for his cash-strapped community of about 600. There are also plans to bring in VLTs.“Our finances are tight. We cannot finance houses for our people and our education,” said Brown. “We need to survive and live.Rainbow Tobacco president Robbie Dickson is already fighting tax authorities in three provinces.Rainbow Tobacco cigarettes have been seized in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) charged Dickson and two other men linked to his company in April with allegedly importing cigarettes into Alberta without a license.RCMP and AGLC agents seized 16 million Rainbow Tobacco cigarettes from the Montana First Nation in Alberta in January.The chief of the First Nation, Carolyn Buffalo, was also charged in connection to the raid.In July, AGLC agents and the RCMP also raided a gas bar in Sturgeon Lake First Nation, Alta., and seized Rainbow Tobacco cigarettes.Dickson said the raids and seizures won’t stop his fight to assert his rights to establish a tobacco trade between First Nations that is unencumbered by provincial tax laws.“We can sustain this as long as it is going to take. We are gaining support from all our people, from all the nations from all the territories. It is a fight that has to be won,” he said. “It comes down to jurisdiction. They have no rights on our territories. The Dakota and Mohawks have never signed any treaties with these foreign governments so our sovereignty is fully intact.”The Assembly of First Nations has also backed Dickson’s position.Brown said he’s not worried about a police raid.“Either they don’t raid us, that is good, but if they raid us that is good too,” said Brown. “If they raid us and seize and confiscate and charge, what laws are they using against? There is no process with non-treaty in Canada, so what laws are they going to legally use.”The Dakota never signed onto the numbered treaties that cover large swaths of Ontario, the prairies and the Northwest Territories.They are currently in Federal Court to affirm Aboriginal rights and title to their claimed traditional territory and to force Ottawa into negotiations for compensation and reparations.The Dakota also want Ottawa to admit they are not “American Indian refugees” in Canada, according to the statement of claim filed in 2009.The federal government, however, holds that the Dakota “do not have Aboriginal title, rights, entitlement or legal interest in lands situated in Canada that they claim to be part of the ‘territories of the Dakota Nation,’” according to the statement of defence.The case is [email protected]last_img

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