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Cayugas gain second property

SENECA FALLS, N.Y. - The Cayuga Nation of New York reacquired a second piece of property within its ancestral homeland. Through a dummy corporation, the nation purchased a former Mobil gas station at the corner of Route 89 and Garden Street Extension for $210,000. The seller was Granite Capital Holdings Inc., of Sidney, N.Y.

"This is one of many purchases that the Cayuga Nation hopes to accomplish," said Clint Halftown, Heron Clan Representative and nation spokesman, adding that the Cayugas hope to re-establish a viable land base by buying both commercial and residential properties from willing sellers. The success of the nation's first retail property, a gas station/convenience store in Union Springs, made this acquisition possible.

Local opposition to the Cayuga land claim settlement (a joint $247.9 million award to the Cayugas and the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma remains under appeal) runs high. Signs and placards saying "No sovereign nation" dot the landscape in and around the claim area, a 64,000-acre horseshoe around the foot of Cayuga Lake. Both the Union Springs store, acquired last May, and the new Seneca Falls store lie within the claim area, giving the nation explicit governmental sovereignty over the land.

"We don't know what kind of reception we're going to receive in Seneca County," Halftown said, noting that protestors picketed the Union Springs store for one day and "they haven't been back since." Halftown said that current employees at the Seneca Falls location would be offered jobs with the Cayuga Nation.

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The nation runs its retail operation under the moniker Lake Side Trading. The Cayugas collect a "nation fee" on each purchase - the fee functions as a tax to benefit the nation's government and programs. The Cayugas remain adamantly opposed to efforts by the state Legislature to push Indian businesses to collect state taxes on reservation sales to non-Indians.

The new tax collection mandate for reservation-based businesses is slated to begin on Dec. 1. In 1997, the last time New York tried to force Indians to collect its taxes, blockades across Interstate highways and threats of violence caused state authorities to back off.