In 1799 the member nations of the Haudenosaunee were in serious state of disarray. We had just endured a raging conflict between England and her colonies in a war of Revolution. Many of the battles took place in our homelands and strained relationships between our nations.
There were treaties of Peace and Friendship to bring wars in our homeland to an end. There were also fraudulent land takings by unscrupulous land companies that were springing up in different parts of our territory trying to take advantage of the aftermath of the Revolutionary War. Governor Clinton was also moving aggressively, making deals and non-ratified treaties with whomever he could. Those activities laid groundwork for today’s land rights and claims.
Our people were suffering; drinking had become a way of life for the Haudenosaunee. It was during this time of dark despair that Ganiodiio (Handsome Lake); a Seneca chief and alcoholic was visited by three spiritual beings. They cured him and then took him on a four-day journey and instructed him on how our people should deal with the negative elements brought across the ocean by our white Brother that included a deck of cards. These instructions are called the Gaiwiio.
Our people could not foresee the potential danger this deck of cards represented. No one at that time could have foreseen the casinos of today. Yet, we were warned this symbol could destroy our Nations.
The instructions of the Gaiwiio saved our nations then and has helped us survive as nations up to this time. The situations in our territories today are very similar to the dangers we faced then. Casinos cause disunity among our nations, our neighbors, and our families – casinos are temporary, lands are forever.
The Haudenosaunee sends its greetings to you. We wish to share with you our concerns on important matters. The Haudenosaunee represents the traditional governments of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora Nation. At a recent Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee, the chiefs of the Confederacy decided that each nation should express its views on casino gambling within our territories.
When the Haudenosaunee was formed under the Great Law of Peace, our nations agreed that our separate territories will become one land. This concept is called, “One Dish. One Spoon.” The Grand Council of Chiefs was given authority to protect those united lands for the sake of the future generations. The Haudenosaunee have never relinquished that responsibility. The treaties between the United States and the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) acknowledge and pledge to protect our lands. Any transfer of land must have the approval of the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee.
The Haudenosaunee is philosophically opposed to casino gambling and high stakes bingo within its territories. Gaming is predicated upon fostering greed and unrealistic visions about striking it rich. There is a reason why casinos are constitutionally banned in New York State. In the past, casinos corrupted the people. New York has chosen gambling as a way to generate income for itself and we feel that this is socially irresponsible.
The Haudenosaunee is morally opposed to casino gambling and high stakes bingo within the territory of the Haudenosaunee. Our Original Instructions, Great Law of Peace and Spiritual Teachings are very clear on this matter. Our way of life is predicated upon values and beliefs that will be undermined by the greed and corruption that casinos bring. The culture of casinos would violate the principles and values that we have inherited from our ancestors. Casino culture destroys the social, cultural and spiritual fabric of our people, and will lead to more serious disruption of the overall health and welfare of our people.
The Haudenosaunee is politically opposed to casino gambling and high stakes bingo within the territory of the Haudenosaunee. The gaming compacts, as currently structured, represent a serious violation of our collective rights. The compacts deliver jurisdiction over our people and lands to New York State. You should be well aware of our position that New York State does not have any civil or criminal jurisdiction over the Haudenosaunee or our territory. The gaming compacts violate this most basic of sovereign principle. Our treaties define our relationship and dispute resolution procedures between the Haudenosaunee and the United States. The gaming compacts undermine the treaty agreements.
For instance, 25 USC § 2713, the National Indian Gaming Commission is given the power to level civil fines against a Nation of up to $25,000.00 per violation. Further, this section gives the Commissioner Chairman the authority to temporarily close an Indian casino for violations of this law.
Several years ago, Oneida Nation had refused to provide the Commission the audits and records that are required by this law. They were informed that a $25,000.00 fine per day would be levied against them if their refusal continued. The Syracuse Post Standard reported that Oneida provided the records.
Additionally, 25 USC § 2715gives the Commission: “the power to require by subpoena the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of all books, papers, and documents related to any matter under consideration or investigation.” This sweeping power is, again, backed up by the power to close a casino for non-compliance. From these two provisions of the federal law alone, a Nation’s sovereignty is severely waived by the operation of a casino.
As if these federal law waivers were not enough, every gambling compact with New York State has required that the Nation agree that the New York State Police will have “complete and unfettered” access to enter Nation gambling areas and offices and to examine any records they choose, relating to the casino and its financial matters. Here again, we see that by operating a casino these Nations are waiving their sovereign immunity and agreeing to give the State Police authority to enter at will.
In addition to all of that, some nations are trading lands for a casino. The people of each nation should be completely informed of what rights are being bargained away. The Haudenosaunee Council of Chiefs are extremely concerned that unforeseen consequences from such bargains could destroy a nation. We remind the people of our Nations that we have a duty to our ancestors to maintain this Great Law of Peace and an obligation to provide for future generations yet unborn.
Sidney Hill, Tadadaho