PRESS RELEASE: May 15, 2006
Onondaga Nation Communications
U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Appeal On Cayuga Land Claim:
Onondaga Nation Criticizes Decision
Treaties and Federal Law Should Not Be Violated Without Remedy Statement by Onondaga Nation Communications Office on behalf of Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs:
“The Onondaga Nation criticizes the U.S. Supreme Court for rejecting the appeal of last year’s decision against the Cayuga Nation’s land claim. In that decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, contended that there was no point in remedying New York State’s appropriation of the Cayuga Nation’s traditional territory as too much time had passed since the violation. The Onondaga Nation continues to support the Cayuga Nation – a “younger brother” in the eyes of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy.
“The Onondaga filed their own land rights action in March 2005. While it differs from the Cayuga suit in that it does not seek “disruptive” remedies, the underlying crimes and injustices are virtually identical. The historical facts that the Cayugas did everything they could, that they did not wait too long and that New York knowingly and repeatedly violated federal law and treaties were not contested by the Court of Appeals. The Onondaga will continue their suit regardless of today’s grave injustice.
“In seizing land from the Cayuga, Onondaga, and other Haudenosaunee nations, New York State knowingly violated federal laws, treaties, the U.S. Constitution, and the Trade and Intercourse Acts, which specifically prohibited states from taking territory from sovereign Indian Nations without federal involvement and approval.
“There was no federal response to these actions, however, and at the time the Haudenosaunee could not take New York State to court. These nations were victim to constant political, social, and economic exclusion and oppression. Most of their leaders spoke little or no English; they lacked sufficient resources and had no way of obtaining an attorney.
“The Cayuga, Onondaga, and other nations are not responsible for the delay or ‘laches’ (the legal term that the appellate decision invoked) in suing New York State, given the judicial discrimination that has existed for most of U.S. history. In the 1920s an effort was made by the Haudenosaunee nations to pursue these land rights cases, but the federal court decided that such suits could not be claimed, and the decision prevented these cases from being considered for another 45 years.
In 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the earlier ruling and opened the court house door to the Haudenosaunee. The Cayuga Nation filed their land claim in 1980, and in 1985 the Supreme Court ruled that such claims are valid. While that decision has not been overturned, today’s inaction by the Supreme Court does prevent enforcement of the United States most important federal laws.
“In exploring how to address the century-old crimes committed against sovereign Indian Nations, all parties should consider ways to redress these wrongs so that those living in Central New York today will benefit. Ignoring these historic wrongs and injustices just another chapter in this shameful history of the genocide against Native peoples in this country.
“We renew our call for healing of all peoples in Central New York, and for a full healing of all the lakes, rivers, creek and the natural world.”