Halftown attorney answers tough questions on Cayuga Nation dispute (audio)

Seneca County resident wasn’t turned over to authorities, as Cayuga Nation PD claimed; instead was led to ambulance with hands zip-tied

By Gabriel Pietrorazio

Editor’s Note: If you’d like to see every story published on FingerLakes1.com from the ongoing Cayuga Nation dispute click here.

Barclay Damon Partner Lee Alcott answered a field of questions in a FingerLakes1.com exclusive, clarifying key issues of the conflict from the Halftown Council of the Cayuga Nation faction.

Alcott, a lawyer who has practiced for more than 30-years graduated from Syracuse College University Law School, specializes in civil litigation matters for individuals and entities among state and federal courts as well as commercial litigation.

He also possesses experience negotiating with state and federal governmental agencies including the U.S. Department of Interior. 

Passing the New York State and Onondaga County bar associations, Alcott is a lead lawyer representing the Cayuga Nation and Halftown Council.

Alcott is also able to practice before the U.S. District Court for the Northern, Southern and Western Districts of New York as well as U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Barclay Damon, a law firm stationed out of Syracuse has served as legal counsel for Halftown’s Cayuga Nation for more than 15-years.

“Mr. Bowman was not arrested. Non-Cayugas were not arrested”

Despite conflicting reports, Alcott confirmed that detainees were in-fact not arrested last Saturday during a violent brawl while also admitting that the Cayuga Nation Police does not possess the proper legal jurisdiction to do so, even after their police force issued a statement to the media, explaining that three arrests resulted from the fight.

To the credit of Gabriel Galanda, the managing lawyer of Galanda Broadman, Galanda argued that the Cayuga Nation Police does not have the jurisdiction to arrest, but Alcott even agreed with him.

RELATED: INSIDE THE FLX: Nationally recognized Indigenous rights lawyer weighs in on Cayuga Nation conflict (podcast)

“I’ll give him that. He’s correct,” Alcott stated. 

“Mr. Bowman was not arrested. Non-Cayugas were not arrested. Those who will be charged will be Native Americans, whether the members of the Cayuga nation, Seneca Mohawk, Onondaga Nation or any other nation that comes to the nation’s reservation and commits criminal acts,” Alcott told FingerLakes1.com.

While Alcott admitted that none of the detained were actually arrested, the Cayuga Nation has moved forward with their nation prosecutor to prepare charges against these individuals, except for Bowman.

“Those charges are being prepared as we speak. The nation has a nation prosecutor which it is entitled to have under the nation’s judicial system. The nation has a defender who offer free legal assistance to defend those who have been charged when they are charged. Mr. Bowman, who is a non-native, there has been no determination at present whether he would be charged but I would tell you that the nation’s criminal laws extend to Native Americans only on the reservation the nation has the absolute right to enforce its criminal laws against Native Americans,” he mentioned.

“Mr. Bowman, we believe is not as your reporting has indicated is not Native American. Therefore, the nation would have the ability only to detain him and turn them over to appropriate law enforcement authorities,” Alcott continued.

RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Man detained by Cayuga Nation police vows to press charges (audio)

But in his personal account that was filed with an incident report, Bowman explained that after being released from his detainment, he was immediately placed into the care of medical providers in an ambulance, and not turned over to any local-state law enforcement authorities.

This claim has now been backed by an ambulance report that Bowman provided to FingerLakes1.com from North Seneca Ambulance.

“Patient walking to ambulance with hands cuffed behind back. Patient CBAX4 in the custody of the Cayuga Nation Police,” the scene information description from the ambulance report read.

This particular ambulance that was driven Melanie Weaver with Justin Reader, the primary caregiver left the North Seneca Ambulance base at 11:02 a.m. being called-in for standby.

Arriving at 11:15 a.m., the ambulance was awaiting on standby during the riot after the press conference, which lasted somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes.

But it was not until 11:44 a.m. when EMS was summoned by the Cayuga Nation Police to treat Bowman, who was detained and not handed over to local law enforcement.

“Patient walked to EMS from patrol car. Patient assisted into ambulance via side door. Patient placed on stretcher sitting, side rails up, and seat belts applied. Patient hands cuffed behind back and cuffs moved to front of hands. Patient reported CX pain 4/10 described as sharp mid sternal. Patient reported pain moved into left arm 4/10. Patient had noted swelling, bruising, with dried blood on face — around nose – forehead. Hypertension with tachycardia noted,” the ambulance report continued.

Unable to stand, sit or walk without assistance, the ambulance did not arrive to Geneva General Hospital until 12:29 p.m.

“We don’t think we don’t see that [25 U.S.C. 232] being raised as a viable argument by anyone”

In reference to 25 United States Code 232, this law argues that New York State has jurisdiction over “offenses committed by or against Indians on Indian reservations within the State of New York to the same extent as the courts of the State have jurisdiction over offenses committed elsewhere within the State as defined by the laws of the State” aside from any hunting and fishing rights. 

“It does give New York State jurisdiction over offenses committed on reservations the state, however, in this case, the nation has its own law that gives it the right to enforce its criminal laws and that is the route that the nation is taking your again in preservation and recognition of its sovereignty,” Alcott stated.

Soon after, Alcott doubted that this would be a legally sound argument to articulate in any ruling.

“Yes, we don’t think we don’t see that being raised as a viable argument by anyone,” he added.

“I don’t know what you’re reporting is indicated but I don’t believe that those who have been involved in any of this, or the local government officials or anyone else invoking 25 U.S.C. 232 as a means of somehow calling into question the nation’s authority. I’m not aware that that’s been the case at all,” Alcott responded.

Their defensive argument is backed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which argues that the Cayuga Nation territory has never changed.

“It does not need to be trust land. It is Indian Country. It is land within the limits of an Indian reservation. The Supreme Court for hundreds of years has recognized the existence of Indian reservations. The Cayuga reservation was established with more than 200 years ago. It has never been disestablished. It continues to exist to this day. That was established by the Halftown Council with litigation,” Alcott said.

“And we do not anticipate that the state nor anyone else were raised this issue of the state having jurisdiction over the reservation the clans that were committed on the reservation, that again, will lie solely within the nation’s sovereign powers to enforce,” Alcott claimed.

But in the past, this issue of legal jurisdiction has arisen, especially when the Cayuga Nation Police was originally assembled.

Seneca County Manager Mitch Rowe released the following statement on behalf of the county regarding the situation back in 2019:

“In October of 2018 the Seneca County Board of Supervisors adopted a Resolution which, in part, took the position that the employees of the Cayuga Nation do not have the authority to engage in law enforcement activities in Seneca County. That said, the County is not currently in litigation over the policing issue. We will monitor actions that may arise and look at all options that are available to us going forward.”

“The nation is now in the process of rebuilding”

In the aftermath of the demolition and violence, Alcott aims at continuing to rebuild the Cayuga Nation.

“The fact that the nation is in the process now of rebuilding, this is not the time for continued violence. This is not the time for people who have no business in the affairs of the nation coming to the Cayuga Nation’s reservation to cause trouble. The nation is looking to put this behind it,” he shared.

The process of rebuilding has been laid out by Alcott and manifests in the form of “growing its businesses,” “purchasing additional lands to recovering” from a dispute that escalated back in 2014 when members drove a pickup truck through the plate glass window of the Cayuga Nation’s main office.

The Cayuga Nation is less concerned with how the federally-unrecognized Haudenosaunee Confederacy operates, which is an amalgam of six separate sovereign and federally-recognized nations in New York.

With the call-out for men to descend upon Seneca Falls from the Grand Council, some of whom have already arrived, including members of the Kahnawake Mohawk Warrior Society, Alcott discredits the Haudenosaunee Confederacy as a perceived governing body by the public.

RELATED: Leadership struggle continues within Cayuga Nation: What’s next?

“Governments don’t engage in this type of violence, traveling to other sovereign nations and engaging in the kind of behavior that you saw this past Saturday,” Alcott stated.

Calling it a long and arduous task, the acquisition of separate properties was an expensive process and costly one.

Alcott sees a future, one where the Cayuga Nation will not suffer from interference while pursuing its claims to sovereignty and self-determination.

“It’s been a long, long and arduous process through the court system trying to work with local law enforcement, trying to recover these properties trying to rebuild the nation. The nation is now in the process of rebuilding, this is the time for the nation to be allowed to go about its business without interference from any other group,” he concluded.


Want the latest headlines in your inbox each morning? Click here to sign up for our Morning Edition newsletter to get caught up in 60 seconds. You can also download the FingerLakes1.com App for Android (All Android Devices) or iOS (iPhone, iPad)