“You’re an Indian and therefore we own you” – Reflections on the Pipestone tobacco raids

By Craig Blacksmith

PIPESTONE, MB – 9 years ago today [Nov 9th] we opened the Bellevue [tobacco] store by Pipestone, Manitoba with our (very real) Mohawk Brothers.

Everyone, including us, were expecting a raid… but it didn’t happen. TV crews were out in full force interviewing all afternoon to keep themselves occupied. When we finally did get raided a week later, we had an interesting phone conversation with a provincial tax representative.

Provincial Tax Rep: “We need to have a level playing field. Local stores cannot compete with your prices.”

Craig Blacksmith: When have native people ever had a level playing field?

PTR: “All we are requiring is for your operation to sell at regular prices and we’ll rebate the taxes to you.”

CB: “Why would we do that? The tax rebate belongs to the customer not the Indian reserve. Will the province be providing staff to process the receipts? The province didn’t purchase any inventory or provide any funding for the store.”

PTR: “For protection.”

CB: Protection from who?

PTR: “Protection from us.”

CB: Isn’t that extortion?

PTR: Hangs up “Click”.

Knowing what we know now, it would be interesting to do it again. Our Dakota Oyate have never made any treaties with the Crown or its British North America Act governments. Using the Indian Act and the Royal Proclamation were their only claim to jurisdiction.

In other words, “we saw the land and we claimed it.” “You’re an Indian and therefore we own you.”

On a side note, the government was desperate for us to hire a lawyer. At the time, we didn’t know why. Turns out lawyers all swear their allegiance to the Crown and if we had a lawyer, they would have taken us to court as “aboriginals”, which was the “Indian” word at the time.

The AMC grand chief recommended legal counsel so we interviewed their lawyer. His claim to victory was that he would argue the indianness of tobacco. Another lawyer slammed his fist on the table and said “I’ll take you all the way and we will win this.” His claim to victory was using the name of the town of Pipestone which was 3 miles away… “Pipestone comes from a Dakota word Canunpa. We’ll use that as our defence.”

The constitutional lawyer for Canada told us that the precedent settings cases we were looking for were at the Great Library in Winnipeg. Great Library? What is this, a scene from the Wizard of Oz? Turns out there really is a Great Library, but we couldn’t access it because we weren’t licensed lawyers.

An “international” lawyer got so angry at our legal position that he blurted out, “you Dakotas get off your high horse, you’re just Indians.” And therein lies the reason why the government insists on native reserves hiring lawyers.

Lawyers are just people who only know what they’re taught. And like all Indian Act elected politicians, they are also taught that “Indians” have a special set of aboriginal rights or the catch word of today, “indigenous” rights.

The following excerpt is from one of the precedents use against us, taken from court case R. v Moody: “The accused are for all intents and purposes, “Indians” as assigned by the constitution. However, for the purposes of the criminal law, they remain ordinary members of Canadian society.”

In other words, be a good little Indian and we won’t bother you but as soon as you commit a crime, you’ll be treated like a Canadian citizen. That my friends is what the Indian Act does. It only serves the Crown and its governments. It holds the land in trust for them to control.

For the Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy also known as the “white paper”, “It is a trust. As long as this trust exists, the Government, as a trustee, must supervise the business connected with the land.”

And because we never did hire a licensed lawyer, we were given all the evidence that would be used against us in what is known in legal world as disclosure. As an FYI, I’ve given these court precedents to supposed legal people and have never heard back from them. Instead they continue with the standard “Treaty and Section 35 Aboriginal” rights. Why is this? Ego and pride. Even in Wanikia’s time, he stated that people only want to hear what they want to hear and will only listen to people they don’t know.

With social media, it will be our Takojas, our grandchildren with their open minds that will make the change. It’s a long post so if you’ve made it this far, pidamaya, thank you, for taking the time. Ho henanakektado…that’s all for now. Love you all.

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