A flap is developing over 14 million cigarettes–that is, 75,000 cartons–that were seized on Jan. 5 from a Montana Cree reserve by the Alberta government for allegedly being improperly labeled for sale in the province.
Chief Carolyn Buffalo demanded the cigarettes’ return on the grounds that they were labeled according to federal law and did not need to have province labeling because they were only going to be sold on the reserve near Hobberna. Later that week the First Nations band formally asked the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission to return the cigarettes.
“I will not apologize for seeking economic development and prosperity for my people,” she told the CBC.
However she may soon be apologizing to fellow members of the Montana Cree Nation. Buffalo has been suspended by council members who are angry that she did not tell them about the cigarettes or that she had been in talks with the manufacturer Rainbow Tobacco, owned by the Mohawks of Kahnawake, Quebec, about setting up a distribution company.
Admitting that the cigarettes should not have been stored on the reserve without her telling the band, Buffalo said she had been distracted by the death of a family member before she could mention it and that she hopes to reverse the suspension.
“I have a very large number of my nation members who have come to me and said they are not recognizing the suspension,” she told the CBC. “They don’t think it was done properly.”
Meanwhile the Montana Cree Nation plans to challenge the seizure legally if the government does not return the cigarettes, the group’s lawyer, Chady Moustarah, told the CBC.
No charges have been filed, the CBC said.