Oneida feud heats up in New YorkIn an effort to move forward on a land-claim dispute, the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin has launched an advertising campaign in New York to communicate who they are and what their plans are for the area. But the Oneida Nation of New York isn't impressed.
"This is the faction of Oneidas that left New York," said Oneida New York spokesperson Mark Emery. "They left behind their connection to New York State and right now they're attempting to do some slick TV ads and touchy-feely newspaper ads. But they're still the ones that left. They're not the real Oneida Nation. They're a Wisconsin tribe today. Obviously Mother Earth is not important to them, because they sold it once here and they sold it once in Wisconsin."
For close to two decades, the state of New York and the various factions of the Oneida Nation of Indians-all of whom are derived from a single, original Oneida Nation whose homeland is New York State-have been attempting to negotiate a land claims settlement evolving out of a Supreme Court decision in 1985 that ruled an 1820s treaty that stripped the Oneidas of their land was illegal.
"The key issue is that all of the Oneidas were dispossessed of their lands," said Bill Gollnick, general manager of the Oneida Wisconsin. "The fact that all of us were dispossessed of our land as a result of actions that were taken by our leaders means that we all have the same status. When the Supreme Court ruled in 1985 [in Oneida Nation v. New York] that we were all successors in interest, it recognized that we were all descendants of those whose lands were taken, and we are all eligible for equitable compensation. What is being asserted is that we are the greedy ones because we're looking for proportionality. The alternative, that the New York Oneida suggest, is that all of that is theirs, and we should just go away. When you take an objective cut, their assertions don't hold up."
Greedy, you say? Well, yes, said the Oneida New York.
"They're from out of state," Emery said of the Oneida Wisconsin, "that just makes them-as we've called them in the past-greedy outsiders. They're from Wisconsin. They left the land behind a long time ago, 200 years ago. And Oneida New York is the group of Oneidas that stayed."
Two years ago, New York Gov. George Pataki proposed allowing for a total of six
tribal casinos, including three in the Catskill region, but the land claims dispute has tied up efforts to open the Catskills to casinos.
In response, the Oneida Wisconsin purchased a 250 acre tract of land in Upstate New York for a reported $800,000 and launched the TV and newspaper ad blitz. Wisconsin officials told the local media they planned to build a "world-class entertainment facility" on the farmland, but the tribe would not give specifics as to what that means. Along with the Oneida Wisconsin and Oneida New York, at least four other tribes (New York's Seneca, Cayuga and St. Regis Mohawk and Wisconsin's Stockbridge Munsee) are looking into developing casinos in the Catskills.
"The purpose to acquiring the land is that it is another step in resolving a land claim that has been pursued by us since all of us-all of the Oneidas-were forced off our land in the 1820s," Gollnick said.
Again, the New York Oneida are not impressed.
"Anybody can buy land, but since they're a Wisconsin tribe they have to pay taxes on it," Emery said. "Unlike the New York Oneidas, who are the Oneidas that are here, the Wisconsin Oneidas are being aggressive about it, but still, they're not a New York tribe. They're a Wisconsin tribe."