FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Brendan White, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe 518-358-2272
Salli Benedict, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne 613-575-2348
Mohawk Plaintiffs Announce
Akwesasne — The St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, and Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs announced today they concluded their negotiations with the State of New York on their 22-year old claim for lands in northern New York.
“The past year has seen us come together of one mind to resolve our land claim with the State of New York,” stated Chief Mike Mitchell, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. “We are at the edge of an historic opportunity for the Mohawk people and the State of New York,” he added.
In the early 1800s, the State of New York purchased lands from the Akwesasne Mohawks without a federal presence and in violation of the 1792 non-Intercourse Act. In addition, islands that were owned by the Akwesasne Mohawks were transferred to the State of New York after the War of 1812. It was these sales of lands and islands that are at the heart of the Akwesasne Mohawk land claim.
“The unity of the three Councils in pursuing this claim has played a central role in getting us to where we are today,” stated Jake Swamp, Wolf Clan representative of the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs. “Our elders have taught us the value of working together for the good of the community,” he added.
The Akwesasne Mohawk land claim process is unique in several ways. It is the only claim process in the State that has all of the parties at the negotiation table. The Akwesasne Mohawks have a long history with their neighbors in surrounding towns and counties. This has resulted in a fairly positive relationship. Finally, the Akwesasne Mohawk land claim will be settled only through community ratification.
“It is important to point out that the settlement terms we are presenting today are not final until the community ratifies them in a referendum,” stated Chief James W. Ransom, St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council. “In fact, we have signed a Tribal Council Resolution to that effect,” he added.
The major settlement terms that are subject to community ratification are as follows:
Lands and Islands
If the community ratifies the settlement terms, the State of New York will benefit as follows:
· Claims to the one-mile square in Massena and Fort Covington will be released.
· Claims to the Grasse River meadows will be released.
· Claims to Barnhart Island will be released.
Yesterday, the Akwesasne Mohawk negotiating team met with New York State Governor George Pataki to resolve the last remaining issue, Release language to bring finality to the land claim process. With the personal assistance of Governor Pataki, the Akwesasne Mohawks and State of New York were able to agree on the Release language. The language provides the State with the finality it is looking for and allows the Akwesasne Mohawks to ensure the seventh generation can look back at them with pride.
The St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, and Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs have agreed to community ratification of the settlement terms. The St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council and Mohawk Council of Akwesasne will be each holding a referendum, tentatively scheduled to take place on Saturday, November 27, 2004. This will allow the Councils the required time to properly inform the community about the settlement terms. At the same time, the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs will seek the voices of the People of the Longhouse through the processes and protocols provided within the traditional teachings.
Over the next several weeks, community meetings, mail outs, radio talk shows, and other media tools will be used to share information with the community. It is expected a copy of the full settlement terms will be mailed to community members over the next few days.