SENECA FALLS — Do you have question or concerns about the Cayuga Nation?
The Town Board has scheduled a public forum, with a Zoom option, on the Nation’s presence in the town and county for 6 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Community Center. Zoom access can be arranged by visiting the town website at www.senecafalls.com and finding the link.
All questions from residents must be submitted in advance by emailing board member Kaitlyn Laskoski at firstname.lastname@example.org by Jan. 20.
Those attending in person are required to wear a face mask, regardless of vaccination status.
Cayuga spokeswoman Maria Stagliano said the Nation was not aware of the forum or the reasons for it, nor have Nation representatives been invited to participate. She said a statement may be issued once more information is obtained.
Issues that have generated discussion in recent years include sovereignty, gaming, cannabis, property taxes, sales tax. and policing.
The Cayugas are one of the original Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy that were in upstate New York prior to the arrival of non-Native Americans. The Cayugas lived on 3 million acres, from Lake Ontario to the north, to the Pennsylvania border to the south, to Ontario County to the west, to Onondaga County to the east.
They sided with the British during the Revolutionary War, after which Gen. Sullivan’s Army was ordered to drive them out.
The Treaty of Canandaigua in 1794 established a 64,015-acre reservation for the Cayugas around the north end of Cayuga Lake. That included 22,000 acres in Seneca County, including parts of the towns of Seneca Falls, Fayette and Varick.
The state began buying Cayuga lands in the early 1800s, and the Cayugas left the area. Some settled with the Seneca Nation in western New York; others went to Canada; and some went to Oklahoma with the Seneca-Cayuga Nation of Oklahoma. The Cayugas maintained an office in Gowanda, near Buffalo.
In 1980, after settlement talks failed, the Cayugas filed a petition in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York in Syracuse, seeking the return of the 64,015 acres and $365 million in trespass damages. They claimed the land sales to the state were in violation of federal law. Judge Neal McCurn agreed with the claim, and a jury set trespass damages at $36.9 million. Eviction of current occupants of the land was ruled out.
The state and counties appealed, and the Cayuga claim was overturned by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the Cayugas’ appeal because it was filed too late.
Since then, the Cayugas have bought approximately 1,200 acres from willing sellers in the two counties, mostly in Seneca Falls, and established several businesses.