BY DAVID L. SHAW email@example.com
UNION SPRINGS — The takeover of the Great Swamp Enterprise cigarette plant in Seneca Falls ended around noon Wednesday.
Good news, right?
In a bizarre twist, the participants in that incident — and others — immediately traveled to the other side of Cayuga Lake and took over the LakeSide Trading convenience store and gas station in this Cayuga County village.
A group of about six Native Americans who are believed to be opposed to current Cayuga Indian Nation leader Clint Halftown scaled the fence and the gate at the 61 Ovid St. Great Swamp Enterprise plant shortly before noon Sunday. They remained inside the plant until shortly before noon Wednesday.
There was no communication from the group inside the plant during the four days, and no word on their intentions.
A delegation of Cayugas decided to go inside and engage them in conversation at 6:45 a.m. Wednesday. After talks that lasted through the morning, the faction left.
However, that group immediately went to LakeSide Trading in Union Springs, a business operated by the Cayugas and Halftown supporters. Police said they brushed aside security personnel and forced the clerks to leave. They went inside and locked the doors, parked a truck in front of the main entrance and closed the business.
A similar scenario occurred in May, when an anti-Halftown faction of the opposition Unity Council attempted to take over Seneca Falls and Union Springs operations. That resulted in a standoff.
Wednesday’s developments drew some 20 state troopers and nearly a dozen members of the Cayuga County Sheriff’s Office to the Route 90 site. Traffic was detoured.
State police said there was a skirmish between the factions, resulting in an arrest for harassment and a minor injury. The name of the person apprehended was unavailable.
Daniel French, a Syracuse lawyer representing Halftown and his supporters, was at the scene.
“Joe Heath (the lawyer representing the Unity Council) categorically denied the Unity Council authorized, condoned or supports this action,” French said. “And Clint Halftown says he certainly did not authorize or condone this unfortunate situation.”
French said it’s his understanding that those involved in the takeovers are mostly non-Cayugas. They are members of other tribes in New York, along with some Cayugas from Canada, said French, adding that they should be arrested for trespassing.
Heath and Karl Hill, a Heron Clan representative to the Unity Council, issued a statement this morning.
“Neither the occupation of the Great Swamp Enterprise cigarette facility nor the LakeSide convenience store were authorized by the Cayuga Nation Unity Council, but we are working to resolve the issue peacefully,” they said.
The statement went on to give their version of the history behind the conflict, which they blame on Halftown’s efforts to stay in power and the Bureau of Indian Affairs for not acting to resolve the dispute.
Rick Allen, a state police captain based in Farmington, said troopers would not arrest anyone as long as things remained peaceful. He said they were there to maintain the peace, but would act if there was a disruption.
Unity Council member Dan Hill said he was one of those who entered the cigarette plant and mediated the group’s departure. He said he was as surprised as anyone when the group left and went to Union Springs and took over that business.
“It was not authorized or supported or encouraged,” Hill said.
Hill said many Cayugas remain upset with the way Halftown and his supporters treat other Nation members and operates the tribe’s business enterprises and governance.
“There is no transparency and a lot of mismanagement that does not benefit the Nation,” Hill said.
As of Wednesday night, the situation had not been resolved.
Route 90 was reopened this morning.
Wednesday’s incident was the latest in a series of conflicts between the two factions of Cayugas.
In April, Unity Council members took over the Nation’s administrative office building on Route 89 in Seneca Falls. That was resolved.
In May, another conflict arose over control of the Nation’s LakeSide Enterprises in Seneca Falls and Union Springs. That saw a takeover of the Union Springs facility, much like what happened Wednesday.
The matter was resolved when both sides informally agreed to maintain a “status quo” of one faction running the Seneca Falls businesses, except for the cigarette plant, and the Halftown group running businesses in Union Springs and the cigarette plant.
The BIA was asked several months ago to resolve the leadership dispute, but has not yet acted.
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