Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe submits fourth Land into Trust application to restore full reservation status
AKWESASNE -- The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe recently submitted its fourth Land into Trust application with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, said a recent tribe press release.
The application, which would restore full reservation status and tribal authority over lands illegally taken by the State of New York, is part of a comprehensive plan surrounding settlement of the tribe’s decades-old land claim case.Most recently, in 2014, Tribal Council, St. Lawrence County and New York State signed a memorandum of understanding.
The tribe anticipated a similar MOU with its neighbors in Franklin County within months. Four years later, the tribe, the state and Franklin County are still engaged in negotiations, the tribe said.
“We’ve been negotiating in good faith, and we are hopeful that our land claim will be settled, but we can no longer assume the Franklin County Legislature is committed to doing the same. The tribe must, in the meantime, move forward aggressively with ‘Plan B,’ which is to expand our land base through BIA trust applications,” shared the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council Chiefs. “We’ve identified a number of properties in the land claim area in and near Fort Covington and Bombay. The federal process is slow, but we are confident in the end result, and reclaiming our land is what is most important.”
The tribe has filed four applications for a total of six parcels, said the press release. Two parcels are in Brasher, one, a 143-acre parcel, is in the “Hogansburg Triangle”, and three parcels belong to businesses located in the Town of Fort Covington.
The tribe is preparing another round of applications to include four parcels belonging to a business in Fort Covington, which it hopes to have filed within two months.
The current status of negotiations has caused the tribe to ramp up its efforts.
St. Lawrence County has been waiting since 2014 to finalize the settlement agreement and it has anticipated funding in its annual budgets based on settlement dollars that will not be realized until the settlement is ratified by Congress, the press release said.
The only way a settlement can move ahead is to either achieve an agreement between Franklin County, New York State and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe so that both Counties are covered, or for the tribe to seek to settle separately with St. Lawrence County and act aggressively in taking land into trust in Franklin County. The SRMT has $30 million in an escrow account, funds that will not be released until there is a signed agreement, enacted by Congress, the tribe said.
“We are frustrated enough that we are moving ahead with the land into trust process,” remarked Dale White, the tribe’s General Counsel. “The negotiations have been an investment in our belief that it is the right thing to do, but the tribe cannot engage in settlement talks that never seem to end. The lack of agreement will hurt the local governments who have been offered millions of dollars in compensation. Until this is resolved, the tribe will move forward on separate tracks to restore its land.”