Mohawks Look to Cuomo for Settlement Over Land Claims

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After a landmark court ruling over Mohawk Indian land claims, the tribe is still hoping Governor Andrew Cuomo will help them reach a settlement.

On Monday, a court ruled that 2,000 acres of land, known as the Hogansburg Triangle, and located in the middle of the reservation, should remain part of the Saint Regis Mohawk Reservation under a 1796 treaty.

The ruling clears the way for the Mohawks to continue pursuing their legal claims.

However, the court dimissed other key elements of the tribe's claims.

Even though the Mohawks could continue with legal action, the tribe says it would be a lengthy and expensive battle and hopes Governor Cuomo will help settle the land claim issue.

"The Mohawks, and I'm sure the counties and towns, have spent millions of dollars litigating these claims, and it is time to come together and resolve the matter among those most affected, the Mohawks and our neighbors and partners," said Mohawk Chief Ron LaFrance. 

In 2005, as part of lengthy negotiations between the tribe, the state and the counties, a settlement was reached that would allow the Mohawks to purchase, from willing sellers within their original reservation, parcels that would then be recognized as part of the reservation. 

This settlement was part of larger negotiations, which included revenue sharing provisions, from the Tribe's Akwesasne Mohawk Casino. 

"The counties and towns have benefited from the revenue sharing provisions negotiated in exchange for settlement, but have, as yet, refused to implement the 2005 agreement.  We believe that with the assistance and support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, we are closer than ever before to reaching accord with the counties and towns," said Mohawk Chief Paul Thompson, who was part of the tribal negotiation team leading up to the 2005 land claim and revenue sharing agreements.  

In May, the state reached an agreement with the St. Regis Mohawk tribe.
 
Under the deal, the state agreed not to build competing casinos in return for a share of the tribe's gaming revenues.
 
The Mohawks say the talks between them, the state and affected towns have been positive.

"The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe believes that the Governor will honor his commitment to see a negotiated resolution of our land claims.  This decision does not change the fact that negotiated settlement remains in all parties best interests," said Chief Thompson.  "We would prefer to expend our resources on economic development that benefits the North Country, than to continue litigation, that at the end of the day, benefits no one.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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