posted on Aug, 17 2013 @ 04:13 PM
The Iroquois are Not Giving UP
I just came across this article, linked above, that is a rare piece about current Native American activism. I've been interested in the Iroquois for
some time now as they are native to my region, have a great history, and are one of the more politically active tribes.
I wonder what people think about Native American land claims?
In recent weeks Iroquois leaders met with the Dutch consul to commemorate the 400th anniversary of a 1613 treaty. The meeting occurred in Manhattan
where they gave friendly fuzzy quotes to reporters and smoked a peace pipe.
But there was also a political message being promoted by the Iroquois. In the 13 days before the meeting they paddled the Hudson River and stopped
along the way for daily cultural events. They seem to be developing a new strategy of quasi campaigning because legal recourse has proved
"We've just about exhausted our avenues in the U.S. courts," said Todadaho Sid Hill, the spiritual leader of the Iroquois. "We have one more
appeal, which is going to be denied, and then we go to the world courts." The language used in publicity materials has been resolute: "The Onondaga
will not settle for other methods such as casinos that have been used to resolve other Native American claims,"
"After a judge in Albany dismissed the last case in 2010, we started to ask ourselves: well, what are we going to do now?" said Andy Mager, one
of the founders of Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation, who was helping support the legal battle through public outreach. "Joe Heath, the lead attorney
for the Onondaga, then said: 'Maybe what we need is a land rights movement, not a land rights action.' And that got us thinking."
What are the chances that there could be popular support for this type of thing? It's a long shot, but not out of the question. Those in America that
side with the trend of liberalism might be sympathetic and support major land grants.
The Iroquois, like many other tribes, have claimed millions of acres of land.
Iroquois land claims before 1988 include the following:
Oneida 1970 – filed a pre-1790 period claim for 5.5 million acres for a 50 mile wide piece of land from Watertown to the Pennsylvania border.
Oneida 1970 – filed a post-1790 period claim for 250,000 acres in Oneida and Madison counties.
Cayuga 1980 – filed a claim for 64,000 acres at the north end of Cayuga Lake.
Mohawk 1982 – filed a claim for 10,500 acres adjoining Akwesasne.
Seneca 1985 – filed a claim for 50 acres of state owned land in Allegany and Cattaraugus counties.
Here's a NYTimes article from 2000:
Battle Over Iroquois Land Claim
The Oneidas want 250,000 acres of rural New York between Syracuse and Utica. The Cayugas are staking claim to a 64,000-acre wishbone at the
northern tip of Cayuga Lake. The Senecas are eyeing the Buffalo bedroom community of Grand Island. And the Mohawks, though distracted by a possible
Catskills casino, are asking for various islands and parcels straddling the Canadian border.
For years, these Indian nations, all members of the Iroquois confederation, have demanded the return of vast swaths of land based on treaties dating
back to George Washington's administration.
These claims obviously failed. In the article linked at the top, it gives the legal precedent for denying all land claims and frankly I find this
The courts have categorically dismissed the cases and subsequent appeals. Part of the problem with the land rights struggle is the Doctrine of
Discovery, which states that European explorers and settlers have superior rights to the land. This doctrine flows from a decree by Pope Nicholas
in 1452 to allow the subjugation of "heathen" lands in Africa and the New World. It was adopted by American law in 1823 in the Supreme Court case
Johnson vs. McIntosh, and never overturned. Recently, it was used in 2005 as part of a court decision to dismiss an Oneida land case.
So it's US law that Europeans have lands rights everywhere because Pope Nicholas said so in 1452. Sounds fair.
That's the type of thing that could enrage the masses and get them to concede some land.
All in all, I say good for the Iroquois. At some point America has to have an honest look in the mirror about our history and go through all of the
baggage so that we can move on with legitimate conflict resolution that reflects the higher morality that we claim to have in the modern world. Native
American activism can help us do this and everyone can benefit from a serious historical reflection.