ST. REGIS MOHAWK RESERVATION, N.Y. - By a 2 - 1 margin the St. Regis Mohawk
Tribe voted to accept the terms of a land claims settlement with the state
of New York. In a Nov. 27 referendum, following months of intense
deliberation and debate within this Upstate New York Mohawk community,
voters provided tribal leadership with a clear message that the time had
come to settle and move forward.
Among the proposed settlement benefits cited in a St. Regis release are a
doubling of the acreage in the southern portion of the reservation around
Akwesasne within New York (Mohawk lands straddle the U.S./Canadian border),
$100 million in compensation, 9 megawatts of low-cost power, free tuition
to any State University of New York school for eligible Mohawks, the
dismissal of tax-related foreclosure actions on Mohawk-owned properties in
Franklin County and other benefits. The lands are to be returned to Mohawk
government jurisdiction and therefore would not be subject to state
The specific referendum question was: "Do you accept the terms of the
proposed land claims settlement with the state of New York, Yes or No?" St.
Regis Mohawk Tribal members supported the land claims settlement by a count
of 748 voting "yes" with 387 voting "no."
In this politically and geographically splintered community, three
different councils were engaged in the community's land claims
deliberations. In addition to the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council (the
federally recognized governing body on the U.S. side of the border), also
involved were the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (the recognized governing
body on the Canadian side of the border) and the Mohawk Nation Council of
Chiefs (a traditionalist governing council). All had worked together to
bring the settlement terms forward to their publics and had agreed to
conduct referendums for their respective tribal memberships.
In its referendum held the same day, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne members
also approved the land claims settlement by a vote of 300 in favor to 200
against. The Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs however was unable to provide
a decision by the referendum date of Nov. 27, indicating in a press release
that it needed more time to inform their members and reach a consensus
With two of three governing councils voting by wide margins to accept the
settlement provisions the Mohawk people have moved closer to resolving a
complex tribal land rights claim extending back to the Revolutionary War.
The votes are a major stride toward resolving issues whose tangled history
has pitted property-owning non-Indians, as well as state governors and
Albany legislatures, against the resurgent Mohawk claims for a generation.
The claims, which have a strong standing in the courts, have also at times
become a focal point for differences among the various factions within the
Assuming the three Mohawk councils follow the referendum results and make
the settlement official for the tribe, the New York legislature will have
to ratify the agreement. Finally, for the settlement terms to take effect,
the United States Congress will have to concur. Tribal leaders estimate it
will take up to a year for the settlement to be completed and go into