Cayuga Nation leadership dispute results in demolition

SENECA FALLS — The Cayuga Indian Nation is the latest New York nation to be upset by factionalism.

The Seneca County Board of Supervisors is calling on U.S. Attorney, James Kennedy to launch an investigation into the actions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

On February 23, dozens of demonstrators protested along Route 89 in Seneca Falls after multiple buildings used by members of the Traditional Cayuga Nation were destroyed over that weekend.

The traditionalists say that an ice cream shop, gas station and operating day care were destroyed under the leadership of Clint Halftown.

Claiming it was enforcing tribal law, the Cayuga Nation Council under the direction of Halftown had its newly created police department raid properties in Seneca Falls early Saturday morning that had been under control of a traditionalists that dispute Halftown’s authority.

In the process, at least seven people were temporarily detained and one person is facing charges, but nation officials said no one was injured. In addition, the council overnight demolished several buildings in the area — including a convenience store, day-care centre, schoolhouse and sugar shack. Since 2014, those properties had been under control of a group of nation members or supporters that have referred to themselves as the nation’s tradition government.

The Traditional Cayuga Nation Chiefs and Clan Mothers, that controlled the buildings since 2014, called Saturday’s destruction of the buildings “viciously unlawful,” in a statement from their counsel, Joe Heath.

Four months ago, Halftown’s council filed a suit in state court to force the traditionalists off of nation-owned businesses in Seneca Falls. However, the state Court of Appeals declined in late October to force them off of the disputed properties, ruling the court does not have jurisdiction to settle the property dispute. Halftown’s council later seized the properties it had a sued to control.

Halftown himself would not not respond to calls from media but did release a statement admitting to the demolishing.

Following the protest in February, the Seneca County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting calling on Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to deploy U.S. Marshals to the area, to protect against potential violence.

The Board is also requesting Rep. Tom Reed to withhold $287,000 in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding until after the investigation.

In response to the surprise, dead-of-night show of power, several Cayuga families who oppose Halftown have sent their children out of town, fearing the bulldozers will come for their homes next.

Seneca Falls, best known as the birth place of the women’s rights movement, the divide between the Cayugas widened in the early 2000s amid disagreement over Halftown’s push to build a resort casino in the Catskill Mountains.

A press conference held near where the Cayuga Nation Council seized and demolished property last week turned violent and resulted in three arrests, according to the council.

The press conference, which Seneca Falls police say was intended to be peaceful, was held by the Cayuga Nation Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy on Route 89, next to the property seized by the council.

Three men were arrested for various reasons, all were against the Cayuga Nation Police.

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