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Upstate Citizens for Equality's statement regarding the proposed settlement with the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York

Press Release - in case you missed it in the Cayuga forum.

Upstate Citizens for Equality (UCE) is opposed to the Cayuga Trust Land settlement.

Recently lawyers from Governor Spitzer's office, the Harris Beach law firm that is supposed to be protecting the counties from Indian claims, Cayuga spokesman Clint Halftown's lawyer (Dan French, who by the way is not the lawyer for the Cayuga tribe. The lawyer for the Cayuga tribe is Joe Heath, who is opposing the proposed "deal") and a few others made another behind closed door negotiation to create a 10,000 acre Cayuga reservation in six parcels spread over two counties in exchange for the Cayuga tribe dropping their trust applications and not filing any more.

Some politicians caught the "we can't win disease" and were prescribed Alice in Wonderland's Magic pill and things aren't as they appear. This effort to place a cap on how much trust land a tribe can apply for throws the laundry out with the wash water.

UCE opposes this because the trust land applications circumventing the loss of the Cayuga land claim to create a reservation in an attempt to qualify for a casino can be defeated in the courts. There are lawsuits in process challenging the applicability of trust lands to the colony states that have a good chance of winning. If trust land status is ruled to be illegal in the colony states, any trust land forcibly established in the meantime would be rescinded and revert back to what it was. This deal of allowing the Cayuga tribe 10,000 acres of restricted fee land instead of trust land, which the Cayuga know they could lose in court, would not qualify to revert back to fee simple taxable status when the anti-trust lawsuits win.

Trust lands for tribes were authorized for public domain lands under the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). The IRA gave tribes one year, later extended to two years to vote on accepting or rejecting the Act's provision. 258 elections were held, 181 accepted and 77 rejected. Groups rejecting the IRA included the Hopi, who saw it as culturally alien, and the "fiercely independent" Iroquois tribes, which include the Cayuga.

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs, John Collier, warned the tribes that those who reject the Act must reject all of it and do not have the trust period automatically extended. Alleged pro-Communist John Collier was the author of the IRA and was at odds with Congress, which removed or modified most of the original IRA in the Wheeler-Howard Bill authorizing its implementation.

The original IRA authorized landless tribes to use their own funds to purchase lands for trust applications. In the Wheeler-Howard Bill, Congress removed that authorization and limited any purchasing of lands to Congress. Furthermore, the stipulation was included that such tribe must not be affiliated with any tribe that still had land upon which they may settle. The Cayuga have such lands on the Seneca Cattaraugus Reservation.

Congress has appropriated no funds for purchasing lands for the Cayuga. The Cayuga rejected the Act and have lands for their use with an affiliated tribe.

Furthermore, the Secretary of the Interior does not have the authority to impose Indian reservations within this State and Congress, itself, has no Constitutional power to do so. There never were federal public domain lands or federal reservations here to revert back. Plus, the State can't simply give land to an Indian tribe. State law (Section 10) forbids the Governor from diminishing the State's sovereignty for any reason; federal Indian law only allows for land to be given to a tribe if the tribe drops a pending land claim in exchange for such a settlement. There is no land claim.

UCE maintains that the reference in Sherrill to Trust Lands was dictum, and merely showed that the court considered all possibilities. They could not address that issue because it was not part of the lawsuit. That reference made no ruling, gave no such authority, and made no promises. The Court's reasoning for ruling the way it did emphasized the "disruptive" effects that would result from it. Nothing has changed.

Currently, a 1954 permanent easement to the State for the Thruway is being "rescinded" by the Senecas because they feel like taxing cars at $1 per car - despite the finality of the 1954 agreement. There is no such thing as a permanent fix unless and until the government recognizes that all citizens should be equal under the law.

State Assemblyman Dave Townsend recently urged people to send letters to the Oneida tribe requesting they start paying taxes on their lands, as ruled upon by the U.S. Supreme Court. But the tribes aren't so much the problem as are our own local, state and federal officials who promote racial divides and refuse to enforce existing laws. Those letters should have been directed at elected officials.

UCE maintains that tribes in New York could not win a trust land battle in the courts and if it weren't for UCE pushing and a few honorable politicians we wouldn't have defeated the tribe's 1980 land claim lawsuit and won.

The fundamental issue here is not casinos or how much money may go to the counties or state. At issue is the sanctity of our state's sovereignty and the U.S. Constitution. Let the Department of Interior make their decision so we can fight it in the courts.


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