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This bill, introduced by our Congressman, Gary A. Lee, from the 33d New York District, will establish a fair and consistent national policy, we hope.
By the way, I think it must be underscored that Gary Lee ran for election to Congress on this issue and he won three to one. There was a referendum in the 33d District and Gary Lee was supported vastly. There was a candidate against him and the issue was the negotiated settlement we have been talking about. That was turned down 3 to 1. Upon the request of the chairman of the Seneca County Board of Supervisors, I speak on behalf of my fellow citizens of Seneca County in their countywide support of Senate bill 2084. That this support may soon be statewide is clear from recent statements of support for this bill by Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Lew Lehrman and Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate, New York Mayor Edward L. Koch. On June 4, 1982, in Auburn, N.Y., Mayor Koch stated:
Those who hold the land should not be displaced, nor should public lands be handed over to the Indians, but that just recompense should be made in the aboriginal claims matters through the U.S. Court of Claims.
Since 1790, my 300-acre farm has been in continuous operation by my family through six generations. My title to this land thus derives from the Military Tract mandated to the State of New York by the Continental Congress, acting as a Committee of the Whole, on September 16, 1776. In fact, every square foot of the land in Seneca County is similarly derived from this Military Tract, or from acreages in the 1795 purchase by the State of New York of 100 square miles of the Cayuga Reservation, created in 1789 when the defeated Cayugas, as a prelude to peace, ceded all of their lands in western New York to the State of New York, reserving to themselves only 100 square miles around the northern half of Cayuga Lake.
Sir, I could have brought with me today to show you, the letters patent which constitute part of the farm I now operate. This is signed by George Clinton, the first Governor of the State of New York, and it indicates to me that I own this property.
In 1776, when the Continental Congress required New York State to provide four battalions of troops, there was no money for soldiers' pay. But there was land, and the land to be granted to the New York State enlistees as a bonus in lieu of money from the Continental Congress belonged to Great Britain's Indian allies, the Iroquois Confederacy.
The defeat of the Iroqouis in the Sullivan Campaign of 1779, and the defeat of Great Britain in 1781, made these Indian lands in western New York available for distribution to the victorious veterans of the American Revolution.
Similar situations regarding the Thirteen Original States now lie behind the need today for passage of such legislation as we have before us.
This is the reason all property owners in Seneca County, N.Y. are now under suit, or explicit threat of suit, as set forth in Civil Action 80-CV-930, filed in the Northern District of the State of New York Federal Court, November 1981, by the so-called Cayuga Indian Nation of New York.
I also speak for some 3,000 persons from the Seneca County Military Tract whose petitions I carry to the President of the United States and to the Congress of the United States, and I have them all here. They
represent blood, sweat, and tears, my friends. There they are. I bring them here today because they ask for, as the petition says, all aid and assistance in the passage of the Ancient Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1982, to secure redress from the many grievances caused by the so-called Cayuga Indian land claim.
The Seneca County people here today, including the mayors of Waterloo and Seneca Falls, our principal villages, as well as the chairman and members of our legislature, our attorneys, as well as defendants, individual property owners, such as Catherine, indeed, all in our small society, between Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake, support the passage of Senate bill 2084. We do so for the following reasons.
First, the bill is a settlement bill. In our eyes, it is a settlement bill. It will settle, we think, the ancient Indian land claim problems which have beset the Thirteen Original States for 200 years. And it provides for settlement eminently fair to all concerned. The bill protects the present titles to historically developed lands and improvements which today profoundly differ from the undeveloped wilderness of the 18th century Iroquois. And the bill provides to Indian claimants two modes of due process, before the U.S. Court of Claims, or within the Department of the Interior, for the adjudication and award of money damages only.
By the way, I have been following the argument as to the conflict of interest. I ask you, my friends, are we to submit this to the United Nations? Is this question to be settled by the United Nations?
The seriousness of this distinction that I am calling to your attention, that we are seeing in the bill a relief and award of land, but only in attention to adjudication and award of moneys, money damages. I think that is attested by the following editorial statement by Mr. Gordon Conklin of Ithaca, N.Y. in the April 1982 issue of the American Agriculturist. Mr. Conklin says:
I have worked among farm families and rural people generally all of my life, and . . . can say with certainty that they will not quietly be dispossessed of their lands and communities. The Congress can write all the laws it wants, and the Supreme Court can make all the legal decisions it chooses, and it will still require three divisions of combat-ready airborne troops to take away land and homes from the people of the Northeast.
I have specific and explicit permission to quote this, from Mr. Gordon Conklin. He sends these words to you, sir.
For all of the Thirteen Original States, this bill disposes also of the false issue of ratification of treaties upon which Indian land claims still proceed. Its retroactive ratification simply authenticates the developed practice which regarded Indian treaties as properly in effect when signed by the appropriate authorities. This bill approves formally what has always been regarded by our legislators as approved in the act of execution.
And this bill disposes of the unwarranted use of the 1790 Trade and Intercourse Act as a means of bringing an action for ejectment and damages.
A simple reading of the act itself will show that over a period of some dozen years the first Congress of this country of ours, the very first Congress, and its successors, modified the law to suit its purposes of keeping the Indians at peace rather than at war, and, sir, you named the primary purposes of this act of 1790. I agree with What you said was true, but the preeminent reason for passing that was to pacify
the Indians. They were strong enough to destroy us and they will destroy us yet. If this bill is not begun as a move toward a national policy, I assure you, my friends, we are looking in the face of national destruction.
It is inconceivable, it is hard to present this argument, because people do not believe it, but at the time of the beginning of the revolution, the State of New York was only those contiguous counties along the Hudson River. That is all that will be left if the judgment in the present Cayuga case against us in New York State is a favor of the Indians. We will have a State of New York which is along the Hudson River. This matter of resolution of settlement comes in on two more important and destructive issues; I believe, active causes of war. These are in the South Atlantic and in the Middle East, and I am profoundly disturbed, my friends, because I served with Senator Goldwater and I wish he were here to hear me say what I am saying now.
There are two issues which we must face. These issues are destroying the society of the Falkland Islands at this very moment. They are tearing apart the society of Lebanon at this moment. This is what faces us at this moment, the issue of duel sovereignty and the issue of the double standards of justice. When you talk about leverage for one group, you talk about special privileges. That is what this country was founded to dispose of. There should be no special privilege.
This bill enables Indians who are awarded money damages to buy land in fee simple. That is terribly important and hard to understand. Land titles which thus devolve to Indians will be under a single civil and criminal jurisdiction, will be on the tax rolls, and will involve Indian title in all the rights and responsibilities of full American citizenship.
In closing, I would like to say that from colonial times to the present day, New York State has preserved the proud tradition of leadership in the management of Indian affairs, as proud as your committee, sir. The D'Amato-Lee bill, as we know it in Seneca County, carries on this tradition of excellence. Because of its exemplary record, New York was the first State to receive, under Federal legislation, both civil and criminal jurisdictions in Indian matters. Today's Indian reservations in our Empire State were created by the people of New York, by the people of the State of New York, before there was a U.S. Constitution, or even the beginnings of a strong Federal Government.
We now have before us a settlement devoutly to be wished. It is one which Seneca County welcomes.
Senator COHEN. Thank you very much, Mr. Kinne.
The hearing is going to have to recess and reconvene in room 1318 of this building at 2:30.
[Whereupon, at 12:40 p.m., the hearing recessed to reconvene at 2:30 p.m. in room 1318.]
Senator COHEN. The hearing will come to order.
We are meeting this afternoon in room 1318, and our first panel this afternoon will consist of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribes, Sid Whitecrow and Glen Feldman, and also the Wisconsin Oneida with Gary Metaxon and Francis Skenandore.
Why don't we try to proceed along the same basis as this morning. We have two more panels following, so if you could summarize your statements as best you can, with the understanding that your full statement will be entered into the record. If you could be brief, I would appreciate it.
Mr. SKENANDORE. We need to make a brief explanation here first, Mr. Chairman. Gary Metaxon will not be appearing today and Gordon McLester will be replacing him and commenting on the paper that has been submitted. Arlinda Locklear, who is one of the attorneys for the Wisconsin Oneidas will comment briefly on how the 1790 Act applies to the State of New York, and also some brief discussion on the Oneida
Senator COHEN. All right. Will you proceed?
STATEMENT OF GORDON MCLESTER, TRIBAL SECRETARY,
WISCONSIN ONEIDA TRIBE
Mr. McLESTER. I will just summarize some of the things that we have here. You have our position paper and you know our opposition to the situation.
Senator COHEN. The position paper will be included in the record of the hearing.
Mr. McLESTER. The points that you brought out this morning are almost exactly what we have in our paper. The other thing that I would like to just touch on is some of the activities that our people have been involved in in terms of our association with the U.S. Government.
We would like to emphasize the fact that the Oneida Nation was the first ally of the United States. We helped George Washington in the Continental Army. When he called for help, our people were there to help him. We were there to support their cause. In the time during Valley Forge, George Washington was there with his army, starving. Again, our people were called upon to help. They came forth with the corn that was necessary to feed their starving army.
In a battle, the Battle of Oriskany, it was the Oneida people who helped to turn the tide in that battle, which many people say was the turning point of the Revolution.
I guess it has been stated many times but one of the comments, again, that George Washington pointed out, was that, "If the Oneida people had been our enemy instead of our friend, the war may not have ended in independence."
Again, like I say, the Oneida people have been allies to the United States since the American Revolution, and in every war since that time. Our people have served with distinction and honor during these wars. We have lost many of our people during these times.
When your grandfathers came among our people, into our homelands, the grandfathers asked for our help and for our advice. Our grandfathers extended a helping hand to your people, and the hand was there to help you to survive.
Now, we have come through the system that you have established here. We have come to your courts and your laws, and now we are extended a bill like this. That is not an open hand of friendship. It is not an open hand of the concern for our people, the involvement that our people should have with something like this. We object to something like this.
Our people feel that we should have an opportunity to have some input in our future, as well as the input that you feel you have in our future.
Again, commenting on some of the things, I am glad to see that there are not only Indian people here today, but also non-Indian people. Their concern has been expressed to you. Our concern is being expressed to you. Some people said that their concern has been expressed for the last 5 years. That is fine. That is good. Our concern has been expressed for over 200 years. The actions that have been taken were illegal at that time. We expressed it at that time. We have been expressing it for well over 200 years.
We objected to those treaties and their actions then. We are objecting to them now, and the way they are handled. When someone hurts when they lose their homeland, I understand that. I can sympathize with that. We have been far removed from our homeland because of some similar circumstances. We hurt as anybody else hurts. We bleed as anybody else bleeds. All we are asking is that the type of legislation that is being produced here is not something that is equitable to the Indian people.
Senator COHEN. Thank you very much.
Part of the difficulty is, as I must tell all the members who are here, is that there are no guilty parties. The people who now live on the land and own homes and have worked to keep those homes are innocent, just as the people who are seeking relief under the act are innocent people, and that is what makes it so difficult to resolve a dispute like this. It is so difficult to come to court, to say for a court to resolve who is right and who is wrong.
The reason you do not have this situation in the West is because it was understood at the time that the Nonintercourse Act applied to all western tribes. It was not understood, at least in my judgment, that the act applied to eastern tribes, which is one reason why you are here today, why Maine was here since 1972, or the other tribes who will follow. It was because of a misunderstanding, at the very least, that people did not understand this act to have applied to the eastern tribes.
Otherwise, you would have had the same application in the East as you would have in the West. But that was not the case, historically that was not the case, and now we come today to try and rectify something that occurred 180 or 200 years ago. It is very difficult, and it is because no party that is here in this room is guilty of anything. You are all innocent people, and that is what makes it so difficult to try and reconcile the differences which exist, which we will try to do. Your position paper will be included in the record at this point. [The paper follows:]
GOVERNMENTAL POSITION OF THE ONEIDA TRIBE OF WISCONSIN Recently, U.S. Senators D'Amato of New York and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, Representative Gary Lee of New York introduced the Ancient Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1982. While this proposed legislation is couched in terms that express concern for fairness and equity, the express intent of the legislation is to dispossess Oneida and other Indians of their rightful and meritorious legal claims for return of lands unlawfully and unfairly taken under the laws of the United States.