SENECA FALLS, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The Cayuga Indian Nation seized and destroyed several buildings in Seneca Falls along State Route 89 Saturday morning.
According to a release posted by the Cayuga Nation, the Nation used tribal law to seize property that was taken from them in 2014. The release also says they detained seven people.
The Cayuga Nation said the reason why they destroyed the buildings was, “To eliminate certain public safety issues, and [the Nation] does not want these buildings to become a target for any further friction in the community going forward.”
Some of the buildings that were destroyed include the Cayuga Lake Trading gas station, Gakwiyo Provisions and the Cayuga Sugar Shop.
Members of Cayuga Nation arrived at one of the locations with one sign reading “Banish Clint Halftown.” The U.S. Department of the Interior confirmed Halftown as the leader of the Cayuga Nation Council in November of 2019.
The release also states that Cayuga Nation tried to recover the properties that were taken in 2014 through a lawsuit with the New York Court of Appeals. The release says the court did not make a ruling in the case, and advised the Nation to use, “dispute resolution mechanisms other than [state] courts,” to resolve the issue.
The U.S. Department of the Interior sent the following statement to NewsChannel 9:
The Department is aware of reports that the Cayuga Nation recently conducted a demolition of buildings on property owned in fee by the tribe. There are further reports that some persons on that property may have been detained by employees of the tribe. The Department is further aware that in a press release of February 22, 2020, the Nation defended its actions as a justifiable exercise of tribal law.
The United States does not hold title in trust to any property on behalf of the Cayuga Nation, nor is any property recorded as federally restricted title, rather all real property owned by the tribe is owned in fee status. With regard to such fee land the Department has no administrative responsibilities, thus any action to demolish buildings did not require Department approval or even awareness.
The Department recognizes that federal law limits its authority to intervene in intra-tribal matters. However, detention of individuals on fee land, even tribal members alleged to be in violation of tribal law, can raise serious questions of state and federal jurisdiction.
The Department remains committed to ensuring public safety and will work with federal, state, and local law enforcement as appropriate.
The Department is continuing to gather information and consider options for appropriate action in the event that the Cayuga Nation violated applicable law or the civil liberties of individuals.”