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U.S. defends Mohawk land claim

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The U.S. Attorney General's office is defending the St. Regis Mohawks' land claim in its entirety. That's after a judge recommended throwing out most of it last fall.

In a brief filed earlier in November, Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno made two important points about the decades old Mohawk claim to 12,000 acres in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties.

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Reported by

David Sommerstein
Reporter/ Producer

Point one - the St. Regis Mohawks never left that land that the tribe argues European settlers took from them illegally in the late 1700s.  Point two - the Mohawks have remained “a powerful enduring presence” in the region.

That’s why the United States government is arguing the Mohawk land claim should be treated differently from others in New York State, like the Oneida and Cayuga claims. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against those because the areas were deemed too non-native in character and because too much time had passed.

The federal government’s case on behalf of the Mohawks challenges Magistrate Judge Therese Wiley Dancks’ recommendation in September. She said a small slice of claim area – what’s known as the Hogansburg Triangle – should proceed. But she said claims against the most valuable chunks of the land claim – islands on the St. Lawrence River used by the massive binational hydropower dam – should be thrown out.

In a press release, St. Regis Mohawk Tribal chief Paul Thompson praised the Attorney General’s interpretation.  He said those affected by the claims should leave the courts and negotiate a settlement.

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