AKWESASNE -- The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe wants two parcels of land near their reservation put into trust status by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The tribe on Monday submitted a formal application to the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs to have two tribally owned parcels of land.
One is 63.5-acre area is in the Town of Bombay, nearly adjacent to, but not within the land claim area known as the “Hogansburg Triangle” or “Bombay Triangle.” A 15-acre property is not within a land claim area, but it is within a proposed land claim settlement area in Brasher. The land is identified in a 2014 memorandum of understanding between the tribe and St. Lawrence County, the tribe said.
The MOU is a step toward resolving a decades-old land claim case between the tribe, the county and New York state.
The deal calls for the tribe to be allowed to buy back 1,360 acres of contested land in Massena and 3,440 acres in Brasher. St. Lawrence County was to have received a $4 million annual payment from the state's share of gaming compact payments. The county was also to have received a one-time $2 million signing bonus from the state and $1.5 million from the tribe, when the final deal is inked. The tribe was also to have released the other half of gaming compact monies held in escrow since 2010.
The tribe also has a claim against Franklin County, which has yet to be resolved.
The tribe was suing to get back land they say was sold illegally in the 18th and 19th centuries without congressional approval, in violation of the Jay Treaty and the Indian Non-Intercourse Act.
Chief Ron LaFrance in a prepared statement said the land the tribe is now attempting to have put into trust will be used for tribal programs.
“The parcel in Franklin County is a 63.5-acre parcel of vacant land. The St. Lawrence County parcel is a 15-acre parcel that has two structures, a house and a guest house that we will use for tribal programs,” LaFrance said.
Under federal law, 25 U.S.C. 465 and 467, tribes are able to acquire lands and have them converted into trust lands that are held in ownership by the U.S. Government for the benefit of tribes.
“The principal advantage is these properties will become part of our territory and under tribal control and they will be exempt from state taxes and regulations. We are moving forward with the trust process to expand our territory and meet the needs of our growing community,” a statement from the tribe reads.
This is the second time the tribe has submitted a Land In Trust application. In 2011, the secretary of the interior approved the 39-acre land in trust application, filed by the tribe in 2007. In 2014, the tribe received notification that an administrative ruling had cleared the way for territory expansion after a seven-year wait. The tribe will now seek trust status for two more parcels.
“The trust process has always been an alternative,” Chief Eric Thompson said in the release. “We urge the Franklin County Legislature to share the benefits of settlement with their constituents and move towards a settlement, as St. Lawrence County did in 2014.”