HOGANSBURG, N.Y. - Several last-minute changes to the Mohawk land claims
settlement helped make it more favorable to the Akwesasne community, said
St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council spokesman Brendan White.
The final version deleted the word "forever" from the Mohawk discharge of
the land claims, giving the tribe the option of taking advantage of any
future changes in federal and state law.
The state agreed to pay its $30 million share of the settlement from its
own resources, using the revenue sharing it is slated to receive from the
Akwesasne Mohawk Casino in the Catskills. This will speed up disbursement.
Lands returned to the community will be held in the same manner as existing
reservation lands, to prevent a "checkerboard" pattern of ownership.
Federal arbitration will settle any disputes under the agreement.
Voters of the Akwesasne Mohawk communities on both the Canadian and U.S.
sides of the border approved the settlement in November after debating its
eight-page text. It settled not only the land claims suits in U.S. District
Court but a challenge by the Mohawks to the federal relicensing of the New
York Power Authority's St. Lawrence-FDR Project as well. The Power
Authority will actually pay the bulk of the $100 million settlement,
disbursing $2 million a year over 35 years in addition to providing power
at its lowest rates.
The Mohawk delegation to the signing in New York Gov. George Pataki's
Executive Chambers included St. Regis Tribal Chiefs Margaret Terrance,
Barbara A. Lazore and James W. Ransom, along with Mohawk Council of
Akwesasne Grand Chief Angie Barnes from the Canadian community and Mohawk
Nation Council of Chiefs representative Howard Thompson, Iotore.
Lazore acknowledged the years of effort behind the agreement. "I want to
recognize the work of the previous councils, land claims technicians and
staff in helping to resolve our people's claims," she said. "I'm pleased
the signed agreement reflects all of their hard work."
Ransom said, "Today's signing doesn't represent an end to our land claims.
Rather, it represents the future for our community as the terms of the
agreement are implemented for the benefit of all Akwesasne Mohawks. The
settlement provides the Akwesasne community with endless opportunities."
Here are the main points of the settlement as summarized by the St. Regis
Mohawk Tribal Council:
$100 million in monetary compensation will be paid over a specified period
by the state and the New York Power Authority. The Power Authority will pay
$2 million annually for 35 years and the state $30 million in five equal
14,778 acres of land eventually will be returned to the Akwesasne Mohawks,
with 13,463 to be purchased from willing sellers or voluntary transfers. A
215-acre parcel known as Massena Point and two islands, Long Sault and
Croil, will transfer upon the effective date of the settlement.
Mohawks enrolled at Akwesasne who qualify for admission to a campus at the
State University of New York will not be required to pay tuition to attend
Aboriginal rights to hunt, fish, trap and gather beyond their territory
will be protected.
The tribal council will have the right to enact and enforce their own
building and environmental codes.
The New York Power Authority will provide nine megawatts of low-cost power
from its St. Lawrence-FDR Project for as long as the Power Authority
Foreclosure actions against Mohawks in the land claims areas will be
Mohawks will have the right to bring forward future claims should federal
or state law change favorably.