By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO November 30, 2004 The battle for a casino in Sullivan County pressed forward on Saturday after two votes by factions of the St. Regis Mohawks tribe approved a land claim settlement offer by Governor George Pataki.
The tribe is working with Caesars Entertainment for a casino at the site of Kutshers Sports Academy in Monticello.
The main faction of the tribe, based in northern New York, voted 748-387 to approve the settlement offer, according to Chief Jim Ransom.
The second faction, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, based in Canada, voted 300-200 in favor, said Ransom.
The third faction, the Mohawk National Council of Chiefs, representing the more traditionalist group, will take up to two more weeks until they reach a consensus on how they intend to proceed.
The settlement would double the land holdings of the tribe by adding 14,000 acres of land located in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties of northern New York.
In addition, the tribe would be compensated with $100 million and two islands on the St. Lawrence River, said Ransom.
Once the tribe officially approves the settlement, the agreement will be sent to the New York State Legislature and the United States Congress for approval, stated the chief. Free tuition for tribal students will be made available as well.
In the meantime, the tribe has completed its environmental impact statement, which is currently before the Town of Thompson Planning Board.
If approved, the tribe would then apply for the land at the site to be held in trust by the federal government.
The tribe plans to resume negotiations with the state in the next couple of weeks, said Ransom.
We are very pleased with the results. We are pleased with the number of voters. . . . The community has spoken very loudly and very clearly to us.
Todd Alhart, spokesman for Pataki, said the governor is also happy.
Were pleased with the results of the referendum. This is a significant step towards resolution of an agreement on the proposed settlement, he remarked.