Seneca elections could shift Nation’s attention to import-export trade

The Seneca Party won a clean sweep of November general elections this week.  As expected, current Treasurer Matt Pagels will take office as President, while current President Ricky Armstrong will serve as Treasurer.  Pagels narrowly won the party nomination for that office over John Adlai Williams by fewer than 100 votes.

The Seneca presidency is a two-year term and the office rotates between the Cattaraugus and Allegany territories.

Marta Kettle, an employee in the Clerk’s office for 17 years, was elected to that office by a wide margin.  She succeeds a long line of highly respected women to serve in that office.

The Pagels administration wants to pursue a slew of wide-ranging economic development projects, from toll booths and thruway service centers to windmills and a destination beachfront.

It’s thought that the new administration is planning to take a very forward posture in the assertion of the Seneca Nation’s off-territory jurisdiction by licensing Haudenosaunee vessels engaged in transporting goods between the Seneca territories and other sovereign Haudenosaunee territories.

Doing so could further protect Haudenosaunee merchants in the tobacco trade, and would explicitly assert Article III of the Jay Treaty, which protects indigenous commerce and navigation of inland waterways.  It would also enable the import and export of agricultural products and raw materials — prices for which are often wildly incongruent on either side of the border.

Six Nations businessmen want to see the Seneca Nation purchase an underutilized port facility at Port Maitland, ON, at the mouth of the Grand River and within the Haldimand Tract, over which the Haudenosaunee assert sovereign title.

The underutilized port facility is currently owned by Dundee Energy, a Toronto-based off-shore oil and natural gas driller. The company parks equipment at the site that it uses for oil exploration below Lake Erie. Dundee Energy would prefer selling the property and leasing back some of the space from the Tribal instrumentality owning it — rather than risk a hostile relationship with the indigenous community in Southern Ontario.

It’s thought that the Seneca Nation, with the American Courts’ long-established recognition of its sovereign immunity, is best suited to own and regulate Haudenosaunee transport facilities, even if it does provoke litigation over longstanding constitutional legal questions. (Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution of 1982 recognized and affirmed all existing aboriginal and treaty rights).

Relatively speaking, the Seneca Nation Tribal Courts are more equipped to adjudicate matters of Indian commerce and civil regulatory jurisdiction than the Courts of any of the other Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

Cross-border Indian commerce has been happening since long before the creation of the border and continues to happen within a sovereign scope of jurisdiction. Seneca-owned port facilities on both sides of the border could facilitate and accelerate a significant amount of commerce that goes far beyond just tobacco or petroleum imports.

The indigenous people of North American have been conducting trade on the Great Lakes for tens of thousands of years. If a tribal government were to own and operate smaller-scale import-export facilities on both sides of the border, the infrastructure would enable more robust trade between Haudenosaunee communities.

The costs of consumer goods in Canada — on everything from apparel, to canned food, to produce and dairy — are considerably higher, often twice the price with federal and provincial sales taxes.  Under the Jay Treaty, indigenous people have the right to trade such goods with one another outside of customs duties.

If the Seneca Nation agrees to such a forward posture in asserting Haudenosaunee rights to cross-border trade, it’s been rumored that Grand River Enterprise owners Ken Hill and Jerry Montour would be willing to build a “Walmart-sized grocery store” in Ohsweken that undercuts Canadian prices on dairy, produce, and textiles.

Doing so would guarantee sufficient product volume for a Seneca Shipping service to operate profitably, and the businessmen liken the concept to Seneca Imports.


1 Comment

  1. While this is an intriguing idea it faces huge legal challenges on both sides of the border. This is something that will take decades to accomplish. The nation would be better off concentrating on growing its economic power on the U.S. side.

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