June 10, 2014 - Chronology of the Onondaga Nation’s Land Rights Action and the court decisions affecting its fate


1974 U.S. Supreme Court decides that the Oneida Nation’s claim for lands which were lost through a violation of the Trade and Intercourse Act should be heard in federal court.

1980 –1994 Cayuga Nation files a claim for the return of 64,000 acres of land (1980). The Federal government intervenes in the Cayuga case (1992). U.S. District Court Judge Neal McCurn rules that the Cayugas had a valid claim to their ancestral land. (1994)

1982 The Ancient Indian Land Claims Settlement Act seeks to resolve land claims by validating all prior land transfers and allowing Indian nations to sue only for monetary damages. The bill dies in Congress.

2000-2001 After negotiations break down, the Cayuga claim becomes first to go to trial in federal court. In February, a jury awarded the Cayugas $36.9 million dollars for their land and loss of use of that land. On October 2, 2001, Judge Neal McCurn announced his decision to add $211 million in interest to the jury award, for a total of $247 million.

March 11 2005 Onondaga Nation files historic Land Rights Action in federal court seeking recognition of its aboriginal title over some 4,000 square miles of land and calling for environmental cleanup in the territory.

March 29 2005 US Supreme Court (Sherrill v. Oneida) rules that the Oneida Nation cannot reassert sovereignty over land bought within its Canandaigua Treaty recognized reservation. The decision cited the “longstanding, distinctly non-Indian character of central New York and its inhabitants, the regulatory authority over the area constantly exercised by the State and its counties and towns for 200 years, and the Oneidas’ long delay in seeking judicial relief,” as it invoked the legal concept of laches, that the Oneidas had waited too long, and any remedy would not be fair to locals. But laches, as traditionally used in law, has requirements that must be met for it to be invoked, none of which were met. This case set dangerous precedent.

June 28 2005 Second Circuit US Appeals Court reverses the Cayuga decision, nullifying the award of some $247 million to the Cayugas for loss of all of their lands, and completely dismisses their entire land claim, thereby leaving them with no currently recognized legal remedy and no land.

August 1 2005 Onondaga Nation files amended Land Rights Action responding to court decisions in Sherrill v. Oneida and an appeal of the Cayuga Land Claim.

Fall 2005 New York files a motion to dismiss the entire Land Rights Action, based upon Sherrill and Cayuga. The State does not even attempt to deny that it knowingly violated federal law, treaties and the Constitution when it took Onondaga lands; it merely claims that none of these historic harms matter and that the Onondagas “waited too long,” so “it would not be fair” for them to bring the case now.

August 2006 The Nation files 1000 pages in response to NY’s motion to dismiss, which included Affidavits from 4 renowned historians and hundreds of pages of primary historic documents. This response documented that the Land Rights Action has NOT been “disruptive,” and that the Onondagas immediately and repeatedly complained of NY’s takings of their land, with multiple trips to Washington, DC to meet with Washington, Jefferson and others.

October 11 2007 Oral argument is heard in the federal court in Albany on the State’s motion to dismiss, and Judge Kahn reserves decision. The courtroom is packed with the Onondagas and their supporters.

August 9 2010 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals dismisses the historic Oneida Nation land claim, based on the Sherrill and Cayuga rulings. As the Supreme Court later (2011) refused to hear this case, this was the end of the Oneida land claim. It further formalized in law the new use of laches, despite the fact that it does not follow the normal legal rules of equity, and only applies to Indian Nations who attempt to enforce their treaty rights via land claims.

September 23 2010 Judge Kahn rules that after the Oneida dismissal he has no alternative but to dismiss the Onondaga Land Rights Action, though the state had not even denied having illegally taken the Onondaga lands. This dismissal essentially says that because so much time has passed since NY took the land and because so many Onondagas have been removed from the land, it would “not be fair” to rule that NY knowingly violated federal law, the Constitution and Treaties when it took the land.

October 16 2010 Nation files the Notice of Appeal in the 2nd Circuit, to begin the appeal process.

October 25 2010 The Tadodaho and the Nation General Counsel Joe Heath address the Central New York community at Syracuse Stage on the topic: “Onondaga Land Rights: Progress for Mother Earth,” They proclaim that the struggle to heal the theft of the Nation’s lands will continue and that the Nation looks forward to continuing to work with its neighbors to heal the land,waters, air and the historic injustices inflicted on the Onondaga people.

February 28 2012 The Onondaga Nation brings the wampum belt commemorating the Treaty of Canandaigua and George Washington’s promises to protect their land to Washington, D.C. to announce the appeal of the Land Rights Action.

October 12 2012 The Nation’s attorneys offer oral arguments before a 3-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

October 19 2012 The 3-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit rejects the Nation’s appeal, thereby affirming the September 2010 dismissal of the Land Rights Action by the US District Court for the Northern District of New York.

November 2 2012 The Nation’s attorneys file a request for a re-hearing of the Oct 19, 2012 Circuit’s Summary Order.

November 5 2012 The Nation’s attorneys file a certiorari Petition asking the US Supreme Court to review the ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

December 19 2012 The full 13-judge US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit denies the Onondaga Nation’s request to re-hear the October 19th denial by a 3-judge panel of the same court.

October 15 2013 The US Supreme Court denied the Onondaga Nation’s Petition for Certiorari review of the dismissal of the Nation’s Land Rights Action.

April 15 2014 Onondaga Nation files a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Commission is part of the Organization of American States (OAS), a political, juridical, and social governmental forum comprised of all the states of the Americas, including the United States.

From www.onondaganation.org/land-rights/onondaga-nation-files-suit-in-world-court/

Check out this interview with Oren Lyons and Tadodaho Sid Hill on the significance of the Onondaga land Rights Action through International Courts at HUFFPOST LIVE. http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/onondaga-tribe-un-united-nations-indigenous-peoples/53713b3978c90a92c8000f8c

To read the Complaint - http://www.onondaganation.org/land-rights/complaint/



    Do avoid using derogatory or stereotypical figures of speech, such as “sitting Indian style,” “acting like a bunch of wild Indians,” and “going on the warpath.” Do refer to indigenous children as children, men as men, and women as women. Terms such as squaw, brave, warrior and papoose have been misused and misunderstood. “Squaw” in some languages may be appropriate, but in other languages can be an insulting term. “Warrior” and “papoose” carry other meanings within some groups.

Kay Olan, Mohawk/Wolf Clan


June 21, 1-3:30 PM, Skänoñh - Great Law of Peace Center, (former site of St Marie Among the Iroquois). Paula Palmer from the Boulder Friends Meeting will be presenting an experiential workshop to help allies of native peoples work towards right relations with America's native peoples. Good will donation at the door. Reservations requested. Please contact Gail Bundy at gbundy@rmi.net or 607-423-0503607-423-0503 .


The Doctrine of Christian Discovery: After Repudiation, What Next? May 24/25th Conference. Videos and text documents are now posted on the web site at doctrineofdiscovery.org. Included are a message from Tonya Gonnella-Frichner about the work of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples, Joe Heath's talk and Robert Miller's 10 Elements of the Doctrine. In addition, Episcopalian, Loretto Community, Friends, Unitarian-Unilateralist, United Methodist and Disciples of Christ representatives reported on activities in their respective denominations.


June 28-29, 10 am- 6 pm, Kanatsiohareke Mohawk Community Strawberry Festival, 4934 State Highway #5, Fonda, NY. A weekend of Mohawk culture & fun. Native Arts & Crafts, Food, Storytelling, Social Dancing, Silent Auction. Admission: $5 Adults, $3 Children & Seniors, Under 5 free. http://www.mohawkcommunity.com/festival.html


July14-25, Mohawk Language Classes, Kanatsiohareke in Fonda, NY. For details and applications visit http://www.mohawkcommunity.com/languageimmersion/currentsessionschedule.html


June 17 – 7 pm, Doctrine of Discovery Study Group will resume regular gatherings next week at the home of Phil Arnold and Sandy Bigtree, 100 Luan Circle, Jamesville, NY 13078 (315-449-1650315-449-1650 ). Group is open and anyone is welcome to attend who wants to learn more about the Doctrine of Discovery or to help dismantle it. For additional information call Phil, 315-449-1650315-449-1650 , or Sue, 315-492-2684315-492-2684 .

June 18 - 6 pm, Shaleshock CNY, Community Room, Onondaga Free Library. Anyone interested in learning more about local anti-hydrofracking efforts in CNY or to connect to these efforts is encouraged to attend. shaleshockcny.org/index.html

July 8 - 7-8:30 pm, NOON Steering Committee Meeting, Syracuse Peace Council, 2013 E. Genesee St., Syracuse, open meeting. Since new people often have a lot of questions, we recommend talking with Carol Baum, Syracuse Peace Council Staff (315-472-5478315-472-5478 , carol@peacecouncil.net) or Sue Eiholzer, NOON Volunteer (315-492-2684315-492-2684 , rsue@twcny.rr.com) before the meeting.


More information will be provided later on these events.

July 26 & 27, 2014 - 10am – 6pm, 23rd Annual Native American Dance & Music Festival, Ganondagan State Historic Site, Victor, NY. http://www.ganondagan.org/Events-Programs/Dance-Music-Festival


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