By ANDY GARDNER
MASSENA -- Officials from Massena, Brasher and St. Lawrence County met in closed session Tuesday to discuss the ongoing Mohawk land claim negotiations, but Massena’s town supervisor says there is little he can reveal.
“According to the county, there is no agreement. They updated us on the status of some of the discussions and asked us for feedback on some of their positions,” Gray said, without elaborating further.
He said that there has been progress since the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and state officials announced they would begin working towards resolving the decades-old land claim last May.
“I think things have changed. I think there’s been progress in the county’s negotiations,” Gray said.
He said there isn’t a time table for a resolution and it’s uncertain where things will go from here.
Last May, the tribe and state struck a deal to start land claim negotiations in exchange for the tribe resuming paying the state 25 percent of its annual slot machine revenue, 25 percent of which goes to St. Lawrence and Franklin counties. They also agreed to pay half of $60 million they have held in escrow since 2010. They claimed the state allowed an allegedly illegal casino to operate on Ganienkeh territory in Altona, in violation of their deal with the state to exclusively operate a casino in northern New York.
The tribe has been suing for ownership of several areas of St. Lawrence and Franklin counties they say was illegally sold to the state in the 19th century and granted back in a failed 2005 settlement.
Some of the land is in Massena, but Gray wouldn’t say where it is.
“I’m not sure any of the original claim was in the (village) boundary,” he said.
Other areas the tribe wants back include the so-called "Bombay Triangle," a 3,000-acre area of northern Bombay. The 2005 settlement also incorporated a small area in Rooseveltown, 3,000 acres in Brasher and a large chunk of Fort Covington, starting at Pike's Creek and extending into the downtown area.
The tribe is also seeking free SUNY tuition for tribe members, a $2 million annual payment from the New York Power Authority for the next 35 years and 9 megawatts of reduced-rate electricity from NYPA, tribal leaders said last year.