LAND ACQUISITIONS, PROPERTY SEIZURES
and USE ISSUES for
The following are a series of communications and writings on the numerous problems occurring today regarding land, property and use issues in the diverse area of property rights and the regulating agencies involved in usurping these rights. To get your opinions or experiences included on this page please participate in the discussions on the list or in the forum. When interest dictates we'll be setting up conferences with the assorted player's in this arena so you may present your views in person to those who may have some input in getting these views heard and where they can be addressed.
Landmark Verdict In Cayuga Claim Due
January 10, 2000
Landmark verdict in Cayuga claim due
Jury expected to set pattern for damages sought by
other Iroquois tribes for confiscation of their lands
SYRACUSE -- A federal court jury's decision on how
much compensation the Cayuga Indian Nation should
receive for its lost ancestral lands will have a
impact across upstate New York, say observers and
those involved in other Native American land claims.
Jurors will begin hearing evidence sometime this week as
to what amount to award the Cayugas in the first New
York land claim case to reach the compensation stage.
Four other Iroquois Confederacy nations, as well as tens
of thousands of upstate residents, will be watching the
"The Cayuga claim will set a precedent. It will likely set
the stage for all the other claims,'' said John Tahsuda, an
adjunct law professor at Cornell University and policy
analyst for the National Indian Gaming Commission who
has written about land claims.
We know how much land is in these disputes, but we
don't know what the valuation of that land is. That is
where the impact will be,'' Tahsuda said.
"This jury is very important to all the other claims,'' agreed
Joe Heath, an attorney who represents the Onondaga
Indian Nation. "Whatever message this jury sends will
have an impact on all the other land claim negotiations
going on and those yet to come.''
Spokespeople for the Oneida and Mohawk nations said
their tribes planned to monitor the proceedings. However,
they declined further comment because of pending land
claim negotiations with the state.
The Cayugas are seeking compensation for 64,027 acres
in Cayuga and Seneca counties surrounding the northern
tip of Cayuga Lake, an area approximately 7,000 property
owners now call home. Before the Revolutionary War,
the Cayuga Indian Nation territory extended over almost 3
The tribe claimed in a 1980 lawsuit that the state illegally
acquired the land by violating the 1790 Indian Trade and
Non-Intercourse law requiring the federal government to
approve all land treaties. It is, in part, the same argument
made by the Oneidas, Senecas and Mohawks in their
pending land claims and the same issue that the
Onondagas will raise when they file their land claim later
Presently, about 500 Cayugas live in western New York
on and around the Seneca's Cattaraugus reservation. Two
other groups of Cayugas, each totaling about 1,000, live in
Canada and Oklahoma.
Unlike the other members of the Iroquois Confederacy
who retained at least some reservation land in New York,
the Cayugas lost all their land here and have been a
"landless people in New York'' since 1807, said Cayuga
spokesman Clint Halftown.
In 1994, U.S. District Judge Neal McCurn upheld the
Cayuga's claim. The original claim sought the return of all
64,000-plus acres and $350 million. The Cayugas have
since dropped any demand for property owners to be
forced into selling or otherwise giving up their land.
The Cayugas, the state and federal governments and the
two counties had been attempting to negotiate a
settlement under the guidance of a court-appointed
mediator but failed, leaving it up to a panel of
jurors to now decide what is fair compensation.
"There's always a chance (to a negotiated settlement),''
said Martin Gold, the Cayugas' attorney. "An important
factor here is that when this is over, the Cayugas
and thesurrounding population with still have to live
together. Itwould be better for everyone if they could
agree for themselves rather than have a decision imposed by a
judge or a jury.''
Last week, McCurn presided over a pretrial hearing to
determine what expert testimony could be presented to
trial jurors by real estate appraisers hired by
The hearing was scheduled to continue today. Jury
selection will begin as soon as the hearing is
John F. Havemeyer III, an appraiser hired by the
Cayugas, testified that he came up with a current market
value of $191.8 million for the 64,027 acres. Havemeyer
said he thought 10 percent of the market value of the land
for each of the 204 years from 1796 to 1999 would be a
fair "use and occupancy'' award for the Cayugas. He also
estimated that $71 million worth of salt and gypsum had
been extracted from the land and could be
considered lost income.
In another ruling, McCurn said payments made over the
past 205 years by New York state to the Cayuga Indians
can be considered by jurors in calculating the
amount of compensation the tribe can receive. The Cayugas had
argued that the payments should not be considered by the
jury in determining an award because they were based on illegal transactions.
The judge also said he would prohibit trial testimony
regarding any alleged emotional, psychological and
cultural damage the Cayugas suffered because of the loss
of their ancestral homeland. He described such testimony
The trial is expected to last from two to six weeks.
Mass evictions won't happen, Navajos
By Jerry Kammer
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 6, 2000
Navajo and Hopi leaders joined federal officials Wednesday in an
attempt to ease tensions growing from rumors that there will be
mass evictions of Navajos on Feb. 1 from land the government has
awarded the Hopis.
In a joint announcement, the tribal leaders, U.S. Attorney's Office in
Phoenix and a federal relocation officer called for calm. They
pledged to work for peaceful resolution of a stalemate concerning
Navajos who have vowed to remain on Hopi Partitioned Land.
The announcement was made by Navajo President Kelsey Begaye,
Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor Jr., U.S. Attorney for Arizona Jose
de Jesus Rivera, and Christopher Bavasi of the Office of Navajo
and Hopi Indian Relocation.
The first of February is the legal eviction date for an estimated two
dozen Navajo families who have refused to sign an
"accommodation agreement" that would have allowed them to lease
lands from the Hopis.
The deadline is the culmination of a land dispute that has simmered
for more than a century between the two tribes, both of which
consider the land to be sacred.
"We will continue to work cooperatively to peacefully resolve the
issue of the few Navajos who might remain on the HPL,"
Wednesday's announcement said.
Tribal leaders and federal officials said they issued it in response to
a flood of rumors and misinformation about the emotional land
"There has been a lot of misinformation that people are going to be
physically evicted on February 1," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph
"That is not going to happen, and we wanted to set the record
Lodge said that although the Hopis could evict the Navajos as of
Feb. 1, they've pledged to allow his office to pursue the process in
federal court. That could take six to 24 months, Lodge said. It
could lead to a court order for federal marshals to evict the
More than 10,000 Navajos have already accepted federal
relocation benefits. Some have moved to the Navajo Reservation,
others have moved to border towns, the Valley or 34 states outside
Arizona. Several dozen Hopis have also relocated, most to the
But a few Navajos remain, claiming they are bound to the land by
custom and Navajo religion. They've refused to sign the
accommodation agreement because they distrust the Hopis and
because they insist the land is theirs.
The specter of evictions has drawn international attention, especially
as most remaining Navajos are elderly people in isolated areas,
among the last traditional Indians in the United States.
The center of Navajo resistance is Big Mountain, an area with no
paved roads, electricity or running water. The Navajos there have
won the support of dozens of groups across the United States and
in several foreign countries, who call forced relocation a violation of
The groups are calling on members to rally around the Navajos on
"The resisters at Big Mountain have been given the final date of
February 1st, 2000, to leave or be forcibly evicted from their
ancestral lands,"a Minnesota support group claimed in an Internet
message in late December. The group is organizing a caravan of
"human rights observers."
One of the most active opponents of relocation is Marsha
Monestersky, a native of New York who has worked with Navajo
resisters for several years.
"We're not expecting any problems on February 1," Monestersky
said Wednesday. "What we're planning is a symbolic presence on
the land (to protest relocation)."
Former Hopi Chairman Ferrell Secakuku said there's a need to
defuse rumors of impending violence on the disputed lands.
"Some people are saying that Hopi rangers are being trained in
SWAT team tactics so that when the time comes, they will be able
to go out there and clear out the Navajos," Secakuku said.
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