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Seneca-Cayugas buy land in New York

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MIAMI, Okla. - The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma "is exercising its right to establish itself in the State of New York," tribal spokesman Jay White Crow told Indian Country Today on Nov. 21.

The move, consisting of intervention in an on-going land claims suit and a just-revealed land purchase in historic Seneca lands near the Finger Lakes, adds another major player to the highly active land restoration/casino compacting scene in the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois confederacy) territory in what is now upstate New York.

According to a statement from the Seneca-Cayuga headquarters in Miami, Okla., the tribe petitioned Nov. 19 to intervene in a pending federal land claims suit filed by the New York-based Seneca Nation of Indians. The suit affects lands in the area of Cuba Lake in Cattaraugus and Allegheny Counties, reserved for the historic Seneka Nation of Indians in the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua.

The Seneka Nation split in three branches after losing its western New York lands. They are the present day Seneca Nation, the Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians and the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe, the successor to Seneca Indians who left New York for Ohio and then Oklahoma. Each branch now has separate federal recognition.

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Along with the legal action, the tribe has acquired 240 acres just north of Cayuga Lake, the Associated Press reported. The land was purchased for $738,544 by Caywil New York, a company hired by the tribe to acquire land, Larry Leventhal, an attorney working with the Seneca-Cayugas, told The Post-Standard of Syracuse Nov. 21.

The land purchased by Caywill, in the towns of Aurelius and Montezuma, was being developed into an 18-hole golf course by Todd Mirabito. It is near the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, and about eight miles west of the Fingerlakes Mall.

Leventhal would not say what the Seneca-Cayuga's plans were for the property. Other reports say that tribal representatives have taken out building permits. If a casino is planned, the tribe would still have to negotiate a compact with New York Gov. George Pataki and win approval from the state legislature, a process the Seneca Nation of western New York followed in its own plans for three casinos to the west. The Seneca-Cayuga purchase lies to the east of a north-south boundary beyond which the New York Senecas have exclusive rights to Class III gaming.

"The tribe is interested in keeping its options open as to what would best serve the tribal interests regarding the utilization of its lands," Leventhal said.

The Seneca-Cayugas own and operate a high-stakes bingo hall, a gas station and a cigarette factory in Oklahoma.