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Settlement With Oneida Nation Will Not Settle All Land Claims And Litigation

 Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

The chairperson of Citizens Equal Rights Alliance says the negotiated settlement between New York State, Oneida and Madison counties and the Oneida Indian Nation does not settle all ongoing litigation.

Judy Bachmann says while the state and counties agree to drop their claims, CERA will continue to challenge the Secretary of the Interior’s statutory authority to place land into trust in New York State. That challenge is based on a previous US Federal Court ruling. Because the group opted not to consolidate its case with New York State, the state’s withdrawal from similar litigation has no impact on CERA’s case, she said.

CERA’s argument is that as one of 13 original colonies, there is no federal land in New York – and allowing the federal government to turn land over to the Oneida Indian Nation is much more than a local issue, Bachmann said.

If that precedent is set, ”No state in the country is secure from the federal government doing the same thing,” she said. However, the immediate impacts are local.

In Central New York, the settlement agreement says the Oneidas can place upto 25,000 acres of land into federal trust, meaning the land is under federal jurisdiction.

”They are giving away New York’s sovereignty and jurisdiction to the federal government,” Bachmann said. ”There are several land owners who have lived with a ‘cloud’ over the title to their properties.”

”When the land goes into trust it becomes property of the federal government. All [our] property titles are derived from New York State – you are creating federal land in the middle of New York State.”

Bachmann says the Oneidas own more than 17,000 acres currently in the central New York, meaning they can purchase about 8,000 more acres and later place the property into federal trust.

But, where the 8,000 acres will come from, is where the ‘cloud’ comes into play.

The settlement doesn’t say where, when or whether it must be contiguous, Bachmann said, creating the potential for what is usually referred to as checker boarding – in this case it would create Oneida owned land under federal jurisdiction sandwiched between or adjacent to taxable land regulated by New York State.

And, she says forgoing taxes just means a high tax bill for everyone else.

”When roads have to be plowed, or repaved, or maintained, who pays for it?. We do. The municipality will carry that load, and that means taxpayers pick up the tab,” Bachmann said.

The deal reached between Governor Andrew Cuomo, Halbritter and the heads of Oneida and Madison counties calls for 25% of slot machine revenue from Turning Stone to be paid to the state and then distributed to local municipalities.

Bachmann joined WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning the day after the vote. For the full audio interview click here.

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