Syracuse Post Standard
Letter to the Editor:
New York state is unjustified in moving to dismiss the Onondaga Nation’s land rights action (“State seeks dismissal of suit by Onondagas,” Aug. 16). The Onondaga Nation is asking the court to declare the taking of their peoples’ land illegal and wrong.
The state claims in its motion that “laches” applies. Laches is a fairness defense. In using it, the state claims that the Onondaga Nation has waited too long to bring its action to court and that the state is disadvantaged by the amount of time that has passed.
How could the Onondagas have taken this to court before now? While they strenuously protested the taking of the land from the first opportunity, they were refused hearing in our courts until 1974.
And how is New York disadvantaged by the timing? It has benefited greatly through the commerce and industry that has developed in New York state in the many years since the taking of the land.
The Onondaga Nation is, and has been, a good neighbor to New York. The Nation stands up for environmental restoration. They share the teachings and values of their traditions with the people of New York, opening our eyes to another way of thinking – one not focused on economics or retribution, but instead on healing and stewardship.
It is our responsibility as individuals, and as a state, to recognize our history. New York state is built on land that was wrongly taken from a people who have lived here since time immemorial. Until this truth is recognized in our society and by our courts, the healing between the peoples and the land cannot begin.
We call on New Yorkers to stand up and speak out in support of the Onondaga people. All people deserve justice, regardless of race or ethnicity, and Native Americans are still here. Our shared history needs to be recognized. If New York state’s motion prevails, it will further delay the justice to which the Onondagas are fully entitled.
On behalf of Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON)