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May 23, 2013

Tribe eager to reclaim land

(Continued)

"We could, but we don’t want to. We’re here until the end of time.”

VACANT FARMLAND

LaFrance denied a published report that the tribe is interested in obtaining 5,000 to 7,000 acres east of the Akwesasne reservation but said following the news conference, “between here and Fort Covington is a lot of vacant land, farmland that is not being farmed anymore.”

The land could be used to build homes or housing-development projects for Mohawks living elsewhere, he said. 

“We’re not looking to take over a neighborhood,” the chief said. “And no one wants to go with a land trust. That’s not a happy process. 

"We want to give our people the opportunity to come home.”

BARNHART ISLAND

Also in play during the renewed negotiations is a potential resolution of the tribe’s long-held opposition to the re-licensing of the New York Power Authority hydropower-generating operation on Barnhart Island, land awarded to Akwesasne Mohawks in a 1796 federal treaty.

Under the 2005 agreement, NYPA would have paid the tribe a total of $70 million over a span of 35 years to settle the claim and would have given ownership of two more St. Lawrence River islands — Croil and Long Sault — to the tribe in exchange for dropping its re-licensing suit.

The tribe would have also received $30 million from the state and federal governments to settle the land claim and the ability to buy up to 7,005 acres around the reservation from willing sellers, land that would come off county tax rolls and be deemed sovereign Mohawk land.

But the counties rejected the proposed settlement “in the 11th hour,” LaFrance said, because they believed $4 million each in promised annual payments was not enough compensation for the lost land.

'OPENED A DOOR'

The tribe is hoping to avoid a repeat of that in the new talks, saying “we are working on a better relationship that we’ve had in the past” with the Franklin County Legislature.

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