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H.R. 5494/S. 2084, Linscheid, T-9, Page Three
forced to accept monetary compensation. They would even be denied the
The Indian land claims in the states of New York and South Carolina are not "ancient" Indian land claims, as the legislation asserts, implying an antiquity which would suggest lack of present-day validity. On the contrary, many of these claims have been pursued by the Indians since their lands were taken from them.
With respect to the Oneida claim, a Federal district court found that, "The trial of this case demonstrated that (the Oneidas) have patiently for many years sought a remedy by other means--but to no avail."3 For the past 150 years the Oneidas have sent a letter to each U. S. President, requesting assistance in seeking justice for the wrongful loss of their lands.
Another case, the claim of the Catawba Tribe of South Carolina, well represents the abuse which the Nonintercourse Act sought to guard against and which President Washington condemned. Prior to the American Revolution, the Catawba Tribe entered into the Treaty of Augusta with the British Crown. The treaty obligations were later assumed by the United States. After the treaty was subsequently violated by encroachment on the Catawba's lands, the state of South Carolina acted to extinguish Catawba title to the 144,000 acres reserved by treaty. The State's action was never approved by the federal government. According to the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights,
"The 1,200-member Catawba Tribe has a long, continuing history
H.R. 5494/S. 2084, Linscheid, T-9, Page Four
The "Ancient Indian Land Claims Settlement Act" very wrongly assumes that lack of congressional ratification of land transactions was due to simple oversights, or "at best only minute legal flaws."5 assumes that the transactions were fair and acceptable to all parties involved. These assumptions are refuted by the long history of the tribes' search for recourse in the return of their lands.
Proponents of the legislation suggest a certain innocence on the part of the states which originally took the land from the tribes. Yet the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights notes, "Between 1790 and 1842, New York, despite specific warnings that it was violating Federal policy, acquired an additional 246,000 acres (from the Oneidas)... One historian has documented that although New York Governors and State Indian commissioners were specifically told they were violating Federal Indian policy, 116 they chose to ignore the warnings...
The "Ancient Indian Land Claims Settlement Act" also very wrongly assumes the total futility of trying to resolve conflicts over land claims through negotiations in which the just claims of all parties are respected. Because of failures to successfully negotiate settlements in New York and South Carolina, this legislation proposes to settle the matter by punishing the Indians.
A year ago, the Cayuga Tribe agreed to a negotiated settlement. Unfortunately, an apparent lack of full consultation with all affected parties--and this cannot be blamed on the tribe--resulted in opposition to the bill and its eventual defeat. With nowhere else to turn, the Cayuga Tribe sought judicial relief. It is patently unfair to blame the Cayugas for the failure of the negotiations, and equally unfair to place all the blame--and adverse consequences--on other tribes for the
H.R. 5494/S. 2084, Linscheid, T-9, Page Five
failure of negotiations elsewhere.
Contrary to what Representative Lee asserts, the Indians of New York and South Carolina do not "want literally tens of thousands of current property-holders thrown off the land."
Ironically, another sponsor of the legislation in the House, Representative Ken Holland, once stated with regard to the Maine Indian land claims case, before it was resolved, "Perhaps if they had acted reasonably ,,8 and in a conciliatory way, there wouldn't be unrest there now. We appeal to Rep. Holland and other proponents of this legislation to heed his words.
It is imperative that the confrontational, discriminatory, and racially-motivated approach exhibited by this legislation be quickly abandoned in favor of a settlement which will respect the just claims of the Indian tribes, and the understandable and legitimate concerns of non-Indian landowners.
The present legislation, if seriously considered or enacted by the Congress, will only serve to intensify the conflict and polarize the parties involved. Furthermore, it will undoubtedly lead to many more, not less, years of litigation. In a 1979 Maine Law Review article, attorney Tim Vollmann predicted what might happen if legislation such as the "Ancient Indian Land Claims Settlement Act" were to receive Referring to similar bills introduced in the
95th Congress, Vollmann wrote,
"If such legislation were to approach enactment, the affected
H.R. 5494/S. 2084, Linscheid, T-9, Page Six
Such a confrontation is indeed unnecessary. In a letter explaining his position regarding this legislation, Senator D'Amato has written, "It is simply not right to turn back the clock to 1795 and to wipe out nearly two hundred years of the history of the use of the land." Yet "turning back the clock" is exactly what this legislation attempts to do. It would turn back the clock in order to make legal the illegal taking of Indian lands. So the argument cuts both ways, and we would contend that it is simply not right to turn back the clock to 1795 and to wipe out nearly two hundred years of the history of Indian tribes seeking justice and the legitimate rights to their land. We urge this Committee and the Congress to condemn and reject the "Ancient Indian Land Claims Settlement Act." We urge you to support equitable and just settlements which respect the legitimate concerns of all parties involved, without abrogating this nation's commitment to
1Quoted in U. S. Commission on Civil Rights, Indian Tribes: A Continuing Quest for Survival, June, 1981, p. 105.
2Quoted in Elizabeth B. Bazen, Analysis of the Ancient Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1982--H. R. 5494 and S. 2084, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress, April 9, 1982, p. 2.
3Indian Tribes, p. 123.
4Ibid., p. 117.
5Representative Gary Lee, "A New Claims Bill," Congressional Record, March 2, 1982, E 647.
6Indian Tribes, p. 110.
7Congressional Record, E 647.
8Quoted in Indian Tribes, p. 118.
9Tim Vollmann, "A Survey of Eastern Indian Land Claims: 1970-1979," Maine Law Review, Vol. 31:5, 1979, p. 15.
For further information, contact Steve Linscheid, Friends Committee on National Legislation, 245 Second St., NE, Washington, D. C. 202/547/6000
February 11, 1982
FRIENDS COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL LEGISLATION
245 Second Street, N.E. Washington, D.C. 20002 (202) 547-6000
To Members of the Select Committee on Indian Affairs,
U. S. Senate
We wish to express our strong opposition to the "Ancient Indian Land
S. 2084 would unilaterally wipe out Indian land rights in the states
The land claims now being pursued by tribes in the states of New York
Will you join us in actively opposing this legislation?
Robert P. Fetter Clerk, General Committee Ralph Rose Clerk, Executive Committee
E. Raymond Wilson Executive Secretary Emeritus
Nick Block Finance Secretary