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Leaf Home arrow Heritage arrow Heritage2 arrow Tobacco tax increase
Tobacco tax increase
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Tobacco tax increase

By: Barry Higgins

I recently read an open letter to the commission regarding the tobacco tax increase in your state. This is a nation wide trend to decrease smoking related healthcare cost and diseases by discouraging hitting people where it hurts in the pocket. There is no question of the connection between smoking and health related issues nor question that our People use tobacco in ceremonial ways that most politicians are not experienced with and hence do not understand. Elders will have a more difficult time purchasing tobacco product intended for ceremonial use on a fixed income.

The solution required is one that must be sustainable over time, aligns with our cultural teaching, and educates both the dominate society as well as are own People. Recently here in Mass we have created an organization called the Nolumbeka Project. Although the name has multiple meanings and spellings we have chosen to use Nolumbeka as in the Wabanaki language tongue means a stretch of quiet water between two rapids. Our organization’s mission is a not politically motivated, we are not an activist group, and we hold no specific tribal alliances. Our goal is to serve our People through education and public awareness programming. 

One of the key initiatives Nolumbeka has undertaken has been a seed mission for the re-introduction and preservation of traditional foods and some ceremonial herbs. One of the items we have been very successful with is tobacco. This is NOT smoking tobacco it is traditional Nicotina Rustica. The origin our seed is the Haudenosaunee Cornplanters stock from the Cornplanter Reservation in Northwest Pennsylvania. The seed stock of 1915 was re-grown until 1930 and then lapsed replanting for 60 years. In 1990 the seeds were germinated and crops harvested and seeds collected since that time. Strain is a rustic tobacco and not intended for smoking but for ceremonial use.  We harvest both the tobacco leaves and the seed for sharing and future crops.

In response to the call for action and keeping with Nolumbeka’s mission we are offering to the Native community traditional tobacco seed to be use to cultivate this ceremonial herb free of charge. Just send us a self addressed envelope to:

Barry Higgins

Nolumbeka Project

111 Birch Street

Greenfield, MA 01301

We will send you back a small plastic envelope with approximately a teaspoon of seed (enough for a field of tobacco) and an internet link to a document with history and growing instructions. Tobacco requires very little ongoing gardening, grows well in New England, and in all types of soil. The leaves and seed are easy to harvest and dry.

While it is a bit late to start a crop for harvest this year they will keep well for starting and planting next year. If an elder can not cultivate the crop themselves consider doing so for them. We would also encourage the readers to honor our elders who can not afford its purchase to consider a the gift of tobacco for their ceremonial use during the next year. The government allows tobacco to be cultivated for personal or ceremonial use without tax. Our crop is NOT commercial and used in traditional gifting. We will be willing to share any excess over our personal and organizational needs for the year as we do with other crops. We only ask that the seed not be used to produce commercial product which includes Pow Wow sales. This will subject the seller and your customers to tax enforcement. Give freely in the Spirit of our gift here.

Barry Higgins – President of the Nolumbeka Project, Inc. – Pennacook/Abenaki


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