Cayuga Nation leadership dispute results in demolition

SENECA FALLS — 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 Sunday, dozens of demonstrators protested along Route 89 in Seneca Falls after multiple buildings used by members of the Traditional Cayuga Nation were destroyed over the 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 center, 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 Sunday, 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.

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