WATERLOO — Walt Gable is a retired social studies teacher and the long-time Seneca County historian. However, he is not a lawyer, which is what he told the county Board of Supervisors Sept. 27.

Gable made those qualifying remarks before talking about his research into the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, a key document in the ongoing debate over whether the Cayuga Nation has a 64,015-acre reservation in Seneca and Cayuga counties.

“I’ll give you my weeks of research, but no legal advice,” Gable said.

He said the treaty was signed Nov. 11, 1793, in Canandaigua, by 50 representatives of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, or Haudenosaunee; Col. Timothy Pickering on behalf of the President; and by President George Washington in January 1795. It was sent to the U.S. Senate, which ratified it a week later. He said the treaty was between the federal government and the Haudenosaunee Confederation of six tribes in upstate New York.

“It is at the center of the Cayugas’ land claim,” Gable noted.

The treaty established “lasting peace and friendship” between the government and the tribes, but Article 2 is the key section, he said.

“It acknowledged that land reserved to the Cayugas in prior treaties,” Gable said.

The United States recognized that all land sales and creation of reservations agreements made by sovereign Indian tribes with states were acknowledged.

“This treaty did not create the Iroquois reservation. This treaty merely acknowledged that these reserves had been made by treaties the state of New York made with the Cayuga, Onondaga and Oneida tribes and that they were called reservations,” Gable told the board.

Prior to 1794, Gable said several other key developments occurred.

In 1781, the 13 original colonies adopted the Articles of Confederation, which said the Congress had the power to negotiate with the tribes. In 1789, the new Constitution gave Congress the power to deal with commerce relating to Indian tribes. Yet, Gable said the state made treaties at Albany and Fort Stanwix, whereby the Cayugas ceded 1.9 million acres of its land — except for the 64,015-acre reservation around the north end of Cayuga Lake in Seneca and Cayuga counties.

“The state needed land to give to Revolutionary War veterans,” Gable explained. “Military tracts were set up, and the state had to negotiate with the tribe for that land. In 1792, the state started allotting land to the veterans.”

But, in 1790, Congress passed the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act. Gable said that prohibited the conveyance of Indian land unless the federal government agreed.

“Congress saw an Indian war brewing in Ohio and did not want the Iroquois Confederacy of New York to ask for its land back,” Gable said. “This basically was intended to mean that only the federal government could make land-sale agreements with Indian tribes. The state of New York, however, continued to make land-sale agreements with the Iroquois tribes. The federal government did not stop the state of New York from doing this.”

In the so-called Cayuga Ferry Treaty of 1795, Gable said the Cayuga Nation and the state agreed for New York to acquire the entire original reservation of 64,015 acres, despite its obvious conflict with the 1790 Non-Intercourse Act.

“The federal government, however, did not take action to stop the state from continuing to makes agreements regarding land cessions, including the 1795 Treaty of Cayuga Ferry and an 1807 agreement in which the state purchased the remaining three-square-mile parcel of the original reservation,” Gable said. “Again, the federal government did not take action to invalidate this agreement.”

Gable said the 1838 Treaty of Buffalo Creek stipulated the United States give the Cayugas $2,000 for their move from New York to the west and another $2,500 upon their removal to the west. Noting that some have argued this dis-established the Cayuga reservation in New York, Gable said the courts have ruled that “once a block of land is set aside for the Indian reservation and no matter what happens to the title of individual plots within that area, the entire block retains its reservation status until Congress explicitly indicates otherwise.”

Gable told the board the Cayuga reservation was established by the Treaty of Fort Stanwix on Feb. 25, 1789. That treaty approved the sale of about 3 million acres to the state, except for the 64,015 acres in the two counties, 42,000 of which were in Cayuga County.

“The 1795 Cayuga Ferry agreement was negotiated by the state of New York without it being done by a federal government representative, an official federal Indian agent acting on behalf of the President, and it was not a treaty ratified by the U.S. Senate,” Gable said.

Gable said Israel Chapin signed it, but he had not yet received his official letter of appointment as the new federal Indian agent.

Fayette Supervisor Jeff Trout noted Cayuga County “has a different relationship with the Cayuga Nation than Seneca County.”

“Should we invite Cayuga County officials to meet with us to discus this?” he asked.

Seneca Falls Supervisor Mike Ferrara noted that Cayuga County has recognized Clint Halftown as the leader of the Cayugas “and we have not.”

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