Statement on the Dismissal of the Onondaga Land Rights Action
Oren Lyons, September 24, 2010 @ Empire State College
In the interest of time for our presentations I'm familiar with and very much supportive of, I'll get right to it.
I brought my glasses.
[Laughter]
I'm going to start with that this is a sad day for the American people and the United States.
At 3 PM, September 22nd, Judge Kahn dismissed the Onondaga Nation Land Rights Action, and this dismissal is a stain on the Constitution of the United States.
And an insult to the founding fathers of this country, who were with us all the way and supported.
And for the Onondaga Nation it's another disappointment in the long list of disappointments. This is one of almost over 50 years of work and preparation.
We have one option left in the courts, and that is an appeal, however slim that may be.
But what's important to the people of the United States, it's a violation of the promises made to the Six Nations by George Washington, first president of the United States.
It was in reference to the 1790 trade and intercourse act.
And I'll quote his words precisely.
This was a speech to the Seneca Nation and also to the Six Nations, December 29th, 1790.
"Here then is the security for the remainder of your lands.
No state or person can purchase your lands unless at the same public treaty being held under the authority of the United States the general government will never consent to your being defrauded but it would protect you in all of your just rights.
If, however, you're to have any just cause of complaint, the federal courts will be open to you for redress as to all other persons."
Now, that's pretty clear.
Now, obviously the federal courts are not open to us, it's just been dismissed, and I think that this is a position for the American people in. In treaties, the American public is the other half of it.
This is a Nation of your rights as well as ours, and I think that this is a good enough time as any to begin a campaign to just say that and to see if we can bring this day in court about in an appeal.
I think the only way we're going to do that is with concentrated effort in bringing the issues forward.
In Judge Kahn's decision, he relates that he really didn't have an option, that his decision was based on the rulings of the Sherrill and the Cayuga land claims and the dismissal of the Oneida land claim.
It's interesting and should be knowledgeable about the history of the relationship of the Haudenosaunee and the United States in those early years and one of them is that in the beginning prior to the Revolutionary War there was an agreement made, a treaty made which was a neutrality and peace and friendship.
And it was kind of an agreement on both sides between the British as well and between the colonies.
And so it was decided by the Haudenosaunee that they would not fight as a confederation, nor would they fight as a Nation, but they said clearly at the time that we are a free people and our men may take sides and we may see our men in the field but understand if they are there, they're there on their own, they're not there representing the Nation, nor are they representing the confederation. And they held that.
And that was singular in the winning of the Revolution that they maintain that integrity inspite of what occurred during those years.
So in 1793 there was a peace treaty made between the United States and Great Britain and that was in Paris.
And in 1794 there was a peace treaty made with the Haudenosaunee, separate and apart from that treaty because we were sovereign and are sovereign to this day.
Britain did not make or talk for us, we had to have our own separate treaty, so 1784, Fort Stanwix.
And then again in 1789 and then in 1784, but the key to all of this was the 1790 intercourse and trade act that the president was reminding everybody now we're going to be protected in this long and upcoming development of your Nation.
And it's interesting to note too that in the beginning of this event when the Continental Congress was forming and they came to the Six Nations and asked particularly for this event and meetings were held at German Flats in 1774 and then again in 1775 in Albany and the discussion was the same, neutrality, peace.
And at that time the Continental Congress said that if we agreed to this neutrality that we would never have to raise our arms again.
They said we will fight your battles for you.
And so when the draft came about it was going to be resuscitated by President Reagan in 1983, when we sent a letter saying, well please don't try to draft any of our people because you don't have that right.
And so they returned the call and they said we know your position is not new, but what we don't know is what is the basis of that. And so they came to Onondaga in 1983.
And this was the United States government.
And we began the discussion.
We started all the way back in 1701, and on, 1744, Lancaster, Vermont, 1768, British, and 1775, 1776, peace treaty at Fort Pitt.
At that time the peace treaty there, the president of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, commissioned the wampum belt to be made. And they made a wampum belt and that was carried out in the Fort Pitt Treaty of peace and neutrality.
And George Washington was very angry about that because he said that we need the Six Nations, we can't win without them.
And so in the ensuing events that particular treaty was obliterated and expunged.
We knew it was there and we understood the terms of it, and so later on we found the missing Morgan Papers in Santa Barbara and in there was this whole discussion.
So we have a long relationship with the government of the United States and the new governments and how they came about.
And of course it's a well-known fact that the basis of their democratic process is here, didn't come over on the Nina or the Mayflower, there were kings and queens in charge over there.
And so here freedom was rampant. Freedom was everywhere.
And so this process now comes down to this day, and what I'm here to say is that it's a violation I would think of the American public's right.
And I think that in the days ahead, which are going to be very trying for everybody in this world, we're going to need to work together no matter what.
And of course in the cleaning of Onondaga Lake this will not slow us down at all, nor any of the environmental things that we're doing or anything in relationship with that will continue.
The treaty is intact and they said so.
So our land is there, what we have left.
But what they're saying is we can't claim the rest.
And so the next event will be an appeal and after that probably on into the international world.
So with that I want to thank NOON and also Dean Shrimpton for having us here and for hosting this and for the people that come here and support the activities of the Onondaga Nation and we appreciate that.
We appreciate that very much, and I want to hear now what Suzan has got to say.
Thank you.