Chief Paul Thompson said the Tribal Council still believes it can negotiate a settlement with the parties involved “rather than continuing to engage in this costly and protracted litigation” between the tribe, the state, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties and the towns of Brasher and Bombay.
“Resolution would bring clarity as well as financial benefits to the local governments and surrounding communities,” he said.
A news release from the Tribal Council states that while land claims remain important to Mohawks, “a legal loss will not change the makeup of the lands at issue and will not resolve the long-standing disputes.”
The parties “could continue to litigate land issues indefinitely” since there are also separate land-into-trust and a reservation-boundary claims to resolve.
LaFrance said the parties have spent millions on the legal battle, “and it is time to come together and resolve the matter among the Mohawks and our neighbors and partners.”
The starting point would be the 2005 settlement that was never ratified by the counties, which would have let Mohawks buy disputed lands from willing sellers and have those parcels forever recognized as part of the St. Regis Reservation from then on.
The 2005 agreement was part of a plan to allow for sharing of slot-machine revenue between the state and counties, which has meant millions to those involved.
But Thompson said that while the state, counties and town have gotten their money, the Mohawks have received none of what they were supposed to receive because the deal was never ratified.
And that may be where Gov. Andrew Cuomo can help.
“We believe … we are closer than ever before to reaching accord with the counties and towns,” said Thompson, referring to a promise the governor made in May to find a positive outcome to the dispute.