NY: Letter to Sen. Dorgan on the ‘Carcieri Fix’

via RI State Wide Coalition Newsletter
October 7, 2009

upstate citizens for equality, inc.
p.o. box 65
wampsville, new york 13163

September 26, 2009

Honorable Byron L. Dorgan
Member of the United States Senate
322 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Dorgan:

Since you are Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, all Americans are your constituents when issues regarding federal Indian policy affect their lives. Your recent introduction of legislation to amend the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) which has become known as the “Carcieri fix,” has prompted me to write to you concerning the dramatic effects that profoundly flawed federal Indian policy is having on the citizens of central New York.

The Oneida Indian Nation of New York purchased land on the open market, unilaterally proclaimed that land to be sovereign Indian land, and opened a casino known as the Turning Stone Casino upon that land in 1994. From the significant revenue derived from its gambling monopoly, the tribe then began purchasing “cherry picked” properties on the open market within the counties of Madison and Oneida and unilaterally declaring those properties to be sovereign Indian lands after their purchase since, according to the tribe, they were located within the boundaries of the ancient state Oneida Indian reservation. As you may have already guessed, the tribe refused to pay property taxes on those properties and abide by state and local laws.

This activity continued for nearly 10 years and brought the tribe’s total acreage of acquired properties to over 17,000 acres (please see the enclosed map). The City of Sherrill, New York (the smallest city in the state) decided that the tribe’s activities were not only unfair, but also illegal and attempted to foreclose on the tribe’s properties that were within the city’s limits. Naturally, the issue ended up in federal court and eventually reached the United States Supreme Court. On March 29, 2005, in an 8 to 1 ruling, the Court decided in favor of the City of Sherrill in CITY OF SHERRILL, NEW YORK v. ONEIDA INDIAN NATION OF NEW YORK et al.

As anyone familiar with federal Indian policy knows, tribal purchasing of land on the open market whether within or without a reservation boundary is not and has never been an acceptable method of acquiring sovereign tribal lands. The land-into-trust process as proscribed by the 1934 IRA is the proper course for tribes to pursue, and this is what the Supreme Court stated. The Court also ruled that the properties that the tribe had purchased on the open market were taxable and completely under the jurisdiction of state and local governments. Not surprisingly, within days of the Court’s ruling, the Oneidas filed to have over 17,000 acres of non-contiguous properties placed into trust by the Department of Interior (DOI). It is apparent to anyone but a complete fool that the BIA is a firm advocate of Indian tribes, and why wouldn’t it be, without Indian tribes BIA bureaucrats wouldn’t have a job. Yet Congress has seen fit to place the decision of taking land into trust for Indian tribes primarily in the hands of the BIA. The process is flawed at best and unconstitutional when dealing with lands which are not federal public lands…

…Please ask yourself, is this right? Where is it to stop? Is 13,000 or 113,00 acres enough and who is to decide? Would the colonies have signed a constitution that allowed such nonsense as this?

Your recent “Carcieri fix” isn’t a fix at all; it is not part of a solution, it is a glaring part of the problem. When are the members of Congress going to realize that they work for the people and that the people do not work for them? When are the members of Congress going to be Americans instead of squabbling Democrats and Republicans? Is it any wonder that we have dug ourselves into a whole that generations will not be able to crawl out of?

Thank you for your attention to this very crucial issue.

Scott E. Peterman, Vice President

This entire letter to the Senator can be read at RISC’s website.

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