By Nathan Mayberg
AKWESASNE February 3, 2006 The Mohawk Nation is going on the offensive, attacking the legality of the St. Regis Mohawks land claims settlement with New York State and their attempt to build a casino at the Monticello Raceway.
The nation unleashed an angry statement this week addressed to everybody from New York State and federal officials all the way up to U.S. President George Bush, calling the casino deal a violation of the Two Row Wampum agreement between the two nations.
They claim that the land at Monticello Raceway which the St. Regis tribe is attempting to build their casino on actually belongs to them.
In the letter, the nation called the casino project illegal, saying the land at Monticello Raceway is on their sovereign territory. The Mohawks hold land claims on 9 million acres throughout New York and the Northeast.
The nation called the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe a non-Indian corporation created by federal and state law, violating the U.S. Constitution. It is an illegal municipal-level entity. They are imposters who speak for the outside authorities and not for the Mohawks.
St. Regis Mohawk spokesman Brendan White did not dispute the fact that the two tribes are completely different. In fact, the St. Regis Mohawks are split between American and Canadian citizenship.
On the other hand, members of the Mohawk Nation are considered a sovereign nation, said their spokesman, Pekaronpake.
The St. Regis tribe is composed of about 20,000 people living on reservations in Akwesasne, New York, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. They approved a land claim settlement with the State of New York back in November 2004 which would grant them 14,000 acres in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties in upstate New York. In addition, they would receive $100 million and two islands on the St. Lawrence River.
Less than 20 percent of the tribe voted on the referendum.
But the Mohawk Nation contends the land belongs to them.
Regardless, that deal has stalled due to the refusal of New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno to support it.
Pekaronpake said the attempt to settle the land claims with a tribe that does not represent the Mohawks is the latest chapter in a long history by the United States, or the State of New York, to take hold of Mohawk lands through fraudulent transactions. Millions of acres of Mohawk territory were purchased from those of Mohawk descent but who had no leadership ties to the nation itself, he explained. In the first transaction, 9 million acres of Mohawk land were sold to a British citizen of Mohawk descent for $3,000, said Pekaronpake.
The 150,000-member Mohawk Nation is also split between New York and Canada. Eighty-five percent of the tribe is opposed to a casino of any kind for any reason, according to their statement.
The American public needs to understand and come to grips with the reality that we are a nation. When something is stolen, there is no statute of limitations, he said.
Despite the hostilities, he said the nation wont take the issue to court. Being a sovereign nation, they dont believe in using the U.S. court system.
White said that the St. Regis Mohawks have a government-to-government relationship with the United States, which allows it to make the deal. They are recognized as a tribe by the United States Department of the Interior (DOI).
His tribe is anxiously awaiting a decision by the DOI. Any week now, they are expected to decide whether the St. Regis Mohawks will have to conduct further environmental reviews for their land-to-trust application for a casino at the Monticello Raceway.
If not, the next decision could be made by New York State Governor George Pataki on when and how a casino might be built in Sullivan County.