By Mike McAndrew
A hearing on a motion to dismiss the Onondaga Nation’s land rights has been adjourned for three months to give the Onondagas more time to persuade the United States to join in the suit.
Lawyers for the Onondagas and New York had been scheduled to appear Wednesday before Judge Lawrence Kahn in U.S. District Court in Albany.
New York asked the judge to dismiss the Onondagas’ suit in part because it says the state is immune under the U.S. Constitution from such suits unless the United States is a plaintiff.
The U.S. Justice Department intervened as a plaintiff in the Cayuga, Oneida and Mohawk land claims. But it has not done so in the Onondaga Nation’s case, which was filed in March 2005.
In their case, the Onondagas asked the court to declare that New York illegally acquired from the Onondagas roughly 4,000 square miles in five treaties between 1788 and 1822. The Onondagas asked the court to declare that the tribe holds legal title to a strip of land up to 40 miles wide stretching from Pennsylvania to Canada. The cities of Syracuse, Oswego, Fulton, Watertown, Cortland and Binghamton lie within the disputed territory.
Officials at the Justice and Interior departments are giving “serious consideration” to the Onondagas’ request that the United States join in the case, said Joe Heath, one of the Onondagas’ lawyers.
Kahn rescheduled the hearing on the state’s dismissal motion to June 19.