Mohawk Tribe Wants To Use Massena's Old GM Site

Mohawk Tribe Wants To Use Massena's Old GM Site

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Artifacts at the Akwesasne Cultural Center tell the story of the Mohawk Nation. Students from throughout the area come there to gain a new understanding.

“Our story is very rich. It's very beautiful. The art, the culture, the history. We were a part of this country from the earliest onset,” said David Fadden, museum curator and artist.

But that story could be told better. The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe wants to build an Akwesasne Heritage Complex on 47 acres at the former General Motors site in Massena. A welcome center, library and museum would overlook the Raquette River.

“Potentially it could be a big draw. You get people from around the world seeking out to learn about the original inhabitants of this country,” said Fadden.

The tribe has sent a letter asking for support from the town of Massena and St. Lawrence County. But it also wants to make the complex part of Akwesasne territory. That has local officials concerned.

“That would remove any assessed value that we have in the town of Massena. It would take it off the tax rolls,” said Steve O'Shaughnessy, Massena town supervisor.

Town and county officials make it clear they would like something with the power to draw tourists like the heritage complex. But they don't want to lose taxable property.

Both the town and county say there are prospective companies interested in using other parts of the site. But whether any of those pan out, remains to be seen.

The Akwesasne Heritage Complex would employ about 40 people. It would occupy less than one-fifth of the General Motors site. So far, it is the only proposal for the site made public. 

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