Native Americans Say US Violated Human Rights


WASHINGTON April 14, 2014 (AP)

By JESSE J. HOLLAND Associated Press

A Native American group is asking the international community to charge the United States with human rights violations in hopes of getting help with a land claim.

The Onondaga Indian Nation says it plans to file a petition at the Organization of American States on Tuesday, seeking human rights violations against the United States government. It wants the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to declare that the U.S. government’s decision not to hear its lawsuit asking for the return of 2.5 million acres in upstate New York to be violations of international human rights agreements.

The nation has argued that about 4,000 square miles in 11 upstate New York counties stretching from Pennsylvania to Canada was illegally taken through a series of bogus treaties. More than 875,000 people live in the area, which includes Syracuse and other cities.

U.S. courts have refused to hear the lawsuit asking for the return of their land, with the Supreme Court turning away a final petition in October.

Onondaga Nation lawyer Joe Heath, left. ((AP Photo/Mary Esch))
Onondaga Nation lawyer Joe Heath, left. ((AP Photo/Mary Esch))

“The problem is that we can’t get the governor to sit down with us and the United States to live up to its treaty rights,” said the Onondaga Nation’s attorney, Joe Heath.

While in Washington, the group plans to display a belt that George Washington had commissioned to commemorate one of the treaties that was supposed to guarantee the Onondaga their land and “the free use and enjoyment thereof.”

The group says it is not seeking monetary damages, eviction of residents or rental payments. Instead, it wants a declaration that the land continues to belong to the Onondagas and that federal treaties were violated when it was taken away. Onondaga leaders have said they would use their claim to force the cleanup of hazardous, polluted sites like Onondaga Lake.

The petition against the United States was brought by the Onondaga Nation and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which is made up of the Onondaga, Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga and Seneca Nations.

It could be years before the commission decides whether to hear the nation’s complaint, Heath said. Even then, there is nothing that could force the government to follow international recommendations, Heath said. The hope is that public pressure would bring state and federal officials to the table.

“Yes, they can just ignore it but there’s only so long we think can they do that,” said Heath.

Even if nothing happens, they will have made their stand, they said.

“We’re here, we’re speaking out and they know where we stand,” Onondaga Clan Mother Freida Jacques said. “Maybe you won’t write it in history, but we’ll know we made this effort and we’re not letting the people down.”


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Senecas give state of New York $349 million check

31 Jul 2013 Ed Drantch

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – Casino cash is flowing once again into Western New York now that the financial standoff between New York State and the Seneca Nation has ended.

On Wednesday, the Senecas delivered a check for more than $300 million, putting those disagreements in the past. Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster says without this money there would have been big budget problems by November. And Governor Andrew Cuomo says he’s unsure how the city even managed to make ends meet.
“The Seneca agreement is one of the best pieces of news we’ve received in a very, very long time,” Mayor Dyster said.

Governor Cuomo added, “I think it’s a new day today in Niagara Falls. I think it’s been a new day for Western New York and I think today is just emblematic of that.”
The $89 million given to Niagara Falls is part of a larger pot of $349 million presented to the state. The money was withheld after years of back and forth over exclusivity rights and the establishment of “racinos.”

Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder said, it’s all in the past.
“We’re going to keep this compact intact cause we’re going to communicate and we’re going to move forward,” he assured.

The City of Buffalo also received $15.5 million and $34.5 million was given to Salamanca. But of all the host cities, Niagara Falls was impacted the most.
“Tens of millions of dollars that we had budgeted for our schools, our roads, our infrastructure were held back because the state and the Senecas couldn’t reach common ground. It was a very difficult time, but somehow we got through it,” Mayor Dyster said.

The governor praised the mayor, saying he rose to the occasion under rough economic conditions. Cuomo said he believes state government failed Niagara Falls, but this agreement will move them forward.
“It’s good for the Seneca Nation; it’s good for Niagara Falls; it’s good for Western New York; it’s good for the entire state. This is a symbol of a new day and a new relationship,” Governor Cuomo said.

The governor says all the money due to New York State by the Seneca Nation been paid, both past and present, and they’ll continue to make regular payments.

The $89 million check given to Mayor Dyster will be on display in City Hall.