By DAVID L. SHAW
dshaw@fltimes.com

SENECA FALLS — Seneca County’s representative in Congress opposes the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma’s application to put 230 acres of land it owns in Seneca and Cayuga counties into federal trust.

Rep. Tom Reed, R-23 of Corning, joined the state’s two U.S. Senators, Democrats Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, in opposing the Seneca-Cayuga bid. In a Feb. 28 letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Reed strongly objected to the proposed trust application and recommends the prompt denial of the application made by the out-of-state tribe.

Reed told the BIA the Harris Beach Law Firm, which represents Cayuga and Seneca counties in Indian legal matters, had requested and received an extension on the deadline to submit comments until March 1. However, those counties have yet to receive a copy of the tribe’s application, Reed noted. Reed also has requested a copy of the application.

The Grove, Okla.-based tribe owns 229 acres in the Cayuga County town of Aurelius, where it once proposed building a gambling casino and hotel, and Skydancer Smoke Shop, which sits on 1.9 acres in Seneca Falls. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raided the gas station and convenience store Jan. 17, seizing their entire cigarette inventory for not having tax stamps. The store has been closed since the raid. Reed said the ATF action “should raise significant alarms” as to whether the tribe’s application should be approved. Some of what Reed outlined as reasons for opposing the Seneca-Cayuga application:

• In 2006, the tribe applied to have the 229 acres in Cayuga County put in federal trust in order to build their casino and hotel. The BIA rejected the application in 2008 because the land was too far from their Oklahoma reservation to realisti cally provide jobs to tribal members. Reed said the conditions and circumstances in the current application have not changed related to this land.

• The construction of a Class III casino on land in trust requires the consent of the governor. Reed said Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t seem likely to approve a casino for an out-of-state Indian tribe.

• Reed claims the Secretary of the Interior has no statutory or constitutional authority to grant trust status. Reed agrees with Harris Beach’s 2005 arguments saying the intent of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 was to restore reservation land that had been lost to tribes due to allotment. “The Seneca-Cayugas lost no New York land due to allotment,” Reed said, adding Section 465 of the federal act does not apply to New York tribes.

• Placing this land in trust would be at odds with a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in city of Sherrill vs. the Oneida Indian Nation of New York. Reed said the Sherrill decision recognized the importance of preserving the long-standing governance of lands by municipalities in New York state.
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