THE CAYUGA INDIANS AND THEIR LAND CLAIM
The Cayuga Land Claim in the federal courts is over! The Supreme Court will not review dismissal of Cayuga Land Claim!!!!! See Order list of 5/15/06 by Clicking Here!
Over two hundred years ago in 1795 and 1807 New York State and the Cayuga Indians agreed on two treaties that sold the reservation land that New York State had established for the Cayuga Indians in order to bring them back to the state. Both parties in these treaties honored the sale of the land in the 1795 and 1807. The United States federal government was to provide a witness to these treaties and the United States Congress was to ratify the treaties. The federal government provided a witness but Congress ignored ratifying these treaties, as well as some 27 other treaties between NY State and Indian tribes.
In 1980 the Cayuga Indians filed a claim in Federal District Court alleging that the sale of the land by the Cayuga Indians to the State of New York in 1795 and 1807 was illegal because the United States Congress didn't ratify the sale. The Cayuga Indians have asked the court to give them 350 million dollars for trespass damages, evict the current property owners from their homes, and give the land back to the Cayuga Indians. Note that this claim was filed even though they received annual payments in accordance with the original treaties. They have requested and obtained additional sums of money on at least 8 occasions. In the 205 years the Cayuga Indians have been paid 1.63 million dollars. Factoring reasonable interest and inflation these payments have a current equivalent value somewhere between 150 million - 1 billion dollars.
The Cayuga Indian land claim issue has been in federal court for over twenty years. Since the early 1970s a Presidential Decree has purportedly given the Indians newfound power. The Clinton administration was very pro-active in Department of Justice and the Department of Interior (Bureau of Indian Affairs), both of which have been pushing very hard on behalf of the Cayuga Indians to settle this case out of court.
The complete history of this case and the relationship of the Cayuga Indians with New York State have been and are currently being overlooked. The State of New York did not need federal approval of these treaties for reasons outlined in our Position paper on the Land Claim in New York
The Cayuga Indians are part of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy), they are one of the six Indian nations that make up the Confederacy. Their people (People of the Haudenosaunee) see themselves as a separate foreign nation, separate from the United States. Congress made Indians United States citizens in 1924, but the leadership of the Haudenosaunee instructs their people to denounce U.S. citizenship.
The Cayuga Indians came to the area of New York in the 1500s, a wandering nomadic tribe that traveled around the northeast, never having a permanent settlement. They were known as fierce warriors, who forced the Hurons and the Algonquians, the original tribes of New York, out of this territory. As the early colonists arrived in North America searching for a better way of life, the Indians and colonists shared ideas and knowledge. When the colonists sought freedom from England, the Cayuga Indians fought alongside the British against the colonists during our Revolutionary War. After the American victory the Cayuga Indians fled the New York State region going to parts of Canada and the western territory (now known as part of the State of Wisconsin). It was in 1789 with the Treaty of Albany that New York State generously invited the Cayuga Indians back to the Finger Lakes Region of NY, creating a 64,015-acre reservation (a settlement). Six years later the Cayuga Indians and New York State entered into the Treaty of 1795, which sold the major portion of the 64,015-acre reservation, giving title of the land back to NY State. The Cayuga Indians were paid substantially more than the market value of 1795. Allegedly Congress neglected to formally ratify this treaty, in accordance with the 1790 Federal Non-Intercourse Act. In 1807 Congress allegedly failed to act on another treaty between New York State and the Cayuga Indians. This treaty included the sale of the last pieces of land the Cayuga Indians had in New York State. The Cayuga Indians accepted payment and moved away from the area seeking new land and food sources as is customary with nomadic tribes.
When the War of 1812 broke out, the Cayuga Indians again joined the side of the British against the United States of America. The Cayuga Indians during this War were responsible for burning and destroying Buffalo, New York. Since then the Cayuga Indians have come back to New York asking for more money relating to the original land sales of 1795 and 1807. Each time New York State has been forgiving of the Cayuga Indians and willing to give the Indian tribe more money. During Franklin D. Roosevelt's governorship the Cayuga Indians were given another $247,609 (Equaling 2.27 million in today's dollars). This payment was thought by FDR as an end to any further request of the Cayuga Indians for payment of the land. In 1948 several Cayuga Indian Clan Mothers from Canada asked again for more money from New York State for the sale of the 64,015 acres of land. These Clan Mothers were again given a sizable amount of dollars, $300,000 (Equaling 2.45 million in today's dollars). It is not clear what became of this payment and the Clan Mothers. Since the original treaties, New York State has paid the Cayuga Indians on at least eight different occasions. New York has always been willing to give financially to the Cayuga Indians.
The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma is also a party to this action. Their ties to this region and to the subject transactions have never been fully addressed. It is our position that they have no standing in this action. In the Indian Claims Commission's opinion in Strong v. United States, 31 Ind. Cl. Comm 89 at 114, 116, 117 it details the separation of the Seneca-Cayugas' ancestors (who are known as Mingoes) from the Six Nations and their migration to Ohio in the mid 1700's as follows: "The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma constitutes the descendants of these Mongoes who were living in Ohio in the 18th century . . . Based upon the record in these proceedings, we believe that by the time of the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty, the Mingoes in Ohio were small, independent bands, no longer politically subservient to the Six Nations of New York. . . [B]eginning shortly before 1750, the Mingoes themselves were asserting their independence from the Six Nations of New York . . . The only conclusion which can be reached from an analysis of the activities of these Mingoes in Ohio during the 18th century is that they constituted independent bands who often acted in concert with other Ohio Indians. Their actions do not support the conclusion that they remained politically affiliated with the Six Nations of New York."
In February 2000, a jury awarded the Cayugas $36.9 million in damages. Judge McCurn then held a hearing on whether to award interest on the damages award. After the hearing Judge McCurn increased the damages to a total of $247.9 million. This judgment was appealed to the United States District Court for the Second Circuit. Copies of some of the Appellate Briefs filed with the Court of Appeals are available below. The Second Circuit dismissed the land claim on appeal citing the decision of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation. The Cayugas and Seneca-Cayugas asked the court to rehear the case before the full court which was denied and the United State Supreme Court declined to review the Second Circuit's decion in May 2006. This has effectively ended the land claim of the Cayuga's in the federal courts.
Although the lawsuits are dead the threat of land being taken out of our State's jurisdiction is still real the the land to trust processs Click here to learn about the land into trust process and what you can do!