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Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Indian Land Trust

Something interesting is going on with the Oneida Indian Nation and a big chunk of land in New York State. I don't fully understand all the ins and outs (but that's never stopped me before), so if someone else is more informed on this, please chime in. According to an article in the Oneida (NY) Dispatch the Oneida tribe has applied to the Department of the Interior for permission to place 17,000 acres of tribal owned land into a land trust. The tribe's application means the Federal Government is now giving local officials 30 days for their comments on the deal. The local folks apparently are none too pleased, because that would take the land off the local tax rolls.
Nation officials issued a statement saying they are following the direction of the United States Supreme Court's decision in the Oneida Indian Nation of the State of New York vs. the City of Sherrill case earlier this year, which advised them to apply to put their land into trust.
"The Nation is pleased the process is moving forward because it will resolve a number of issues in dispute with the counties and the State," the statement read.
(Madison County Board of Supervisors Chairman Rocco ) DiVeronica said he was surprised at how fast the Nation applied for the trust, because he received indications that it would be a much slower process. He added that he also wants to know why the acreage is so large on the application
"The question would be: Do they need all that land for 600 to 700 Native Americans to support their tribe?" DiVeronica said.

So what's so interesting about this? As I read it, the Oneida tribe used to live in this part of New York State (Hence the name of the town and the paper.) But as with most Indian tribes, they were forced out of their traditional lands into smaller and smaller pieces of land farther and farther west. Those who left signed papers giving up their claims to their land. So the tribe split into a community in Canada, one in Wisconsin, and one in New York. But then, one day, Indian tribal gaming arrived. And so did lots and lots of money. Now the Oneidas are trying to buy up the traditional lands they left behind in the early 1800's. But the Supreme Court Ruling apparently (and I could be wrong on this one) means that they can't buy up new land, and then declare it to be tribal land, free of local jurisdictions. So, they're trying the next best thing. Make it a land trust, and stop paying taxes to those local jurisdictions.
But it's not just the local non-Indian officials who are upset. Apparently, the move by the Wisconsin tribal members has New York Oneida's angry too, who see it as a land grab. There's a terrific series of reports on the Oneidas in the Wisconsin Post-Crescent. The Oneidas have become a gaming powerhouse, and have proposed a controversial casino in Pueblo, Colorado. The Pueblo Chieftain has also done a series on the tribe's expanding fortunes and reach. (Funny how all these Indian names suddenly mean something again.)
And you can tell there must be a lot of money involved, because now Congress wants to get involved. Republican Rep. Richard Pombo, who chairs the House Committee on Resources, which maintains jurisdiction over Native American issues, has announced he plans to bring a resolution to local communities and Indian tribes. Stay tuned.


Anonymous Suzanne Farmer said...

You really need to have your facts straight here. The US Supreme Court gave the Oneida Indian Nation specific guidelines in the court decision. To put their land into federal trust. The Oneida Nation of New York studied this court decision for months, thus fully understanding the decision of the Supreme Court. So now, when the only decision the Oneidas have to protect their sovereignty and the jobs of the 4500 people that work for the Nation has come about, the local politicians want to disiminate the wrong information to the local and national news centers. The plain and simple fact is this, the Oneidas were told by the Supreme Court to put their land in trust. The local politicians want to slow this process down for their own greed. As a Central New Yorker, I am appalled by this. I vote, I work for the Oneida Indian Nation, my family works for the Oneida Indian Nation, and these greedy politicians want to take my job from me? From my family? I pay taxes, and because of the Oneida Indian Nation, my father owns his own home. He has worked for the Oneidas for 13 years! There are no jobs in the local CNY area. DestiNY USA just layed off 190 jobs, Oneida LTD. is out of business. Carrier, let's not even start there! Can the local economy stand to lose 40 million dollars in local and state taxes? The Turning Stone Casino's payroll is over 100 million dollars. I spend my money in Oneida and Madison Counties. I pay taxes. Without a job, where will I go? These are the plain and simple facts. Put the land in federal trust. Save 4500 Oneida Nation jobs. Save our local economy. Do the right thing.

8:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ms. Farmer is simply blowing smoke. There are no jobs in jeopardy here. Do you honestly believe Ray Halbritter would close the Casino if he had to pay his fair share of taxes? Give me a break. If you want to see greed look no further than Ray. I do not believe land in New York, one of the original 13 colonies, can be put in trust. All land within NY was deemed state lands by the Land Ordinance of 1785. As such it is under the sole jurisdiction of the state.

9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Local Bystander - June 21, 2007 Update.

The New York Oneidas have become quite artful at dodging unfavorable decisions, and the State and Federal Governments have been lax in their enforcement of what rules there are that apply to the Oneidas activities.

The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs has declared that a Tribal - State Compact governing the terms of State - Tribal Relations is a valid compact despite the fact that New York State's highest court, The New York State Court of Appeals stated that the Compact is invalid because the then Governor Mario 'Cut a Quick Deal' Cuomo did not receive the approval of the New York State Legislature for the proposed Compact, and that it is therefore Constitutionally invalid. The Office of the Governor did not have the singular power to negotiate and approve a Compact, without Legislative Approval.

After the fact, the U.S. D.o.I.'s Bureau of Indian Affairs position is that no one properly challenged the decision within time limits and the Compact is good, never mind that the issue was still open and non-moot because of the recent decisions of the NYS Court of Appeals, and the subsequent appeals of the issues all the way to the US Supreme Court, which held that the Compact is indeed INVALID!

The Highest Court of Appeals in this whole matter seems to be the Bureau of Indian Affairs itself, not the decisions of the highest levels of the Judicial Branch of Government!

So I don't expect this issue to end here. Bureau of Indain Affairs is an Administrative Decision, and while deference will be given to it, I expect that the challenges will drag on thru the Courts, as both sides will beremain highly motivated and therefore - unfazed and undeterred by any decision that runs counter to their position.

Each side has pushed its propaganda on its views, and it is well known that the Oneidas have squeezed its business partners and employees to be vocal and express public support for the Oneidas positions at the peril of their contracts and their jobs. What would you do in this case? The same I expect.

This influence and the other issues surrounding Taxes, Water Rights, Sewage Treatment, Jurisdictional Issues, and the bald threats of lawsuits seeking ejectment of landowners from their lands has polarized the Communities as much as anything.

Take all the blather with a grain of salt.....(including mine!)

Stay Tuned! We havenot seen but the Tip of the Iceberg in this ongoing saga.

Regards -
A Local Bystander who seeks neither Oneida money or political gain.

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