“Why would you need to demolish everything?” — Feb. 22, 2020
A year later, the Cayugas and their allied Nations from across North America still remember Feb. 22, 2020 — a fateful day filled with trauma and suffering, one that had been felt throughout Indian Country.
In the wee hours of that frigid Saturday in Seneca Falls, something was brewing along State Route 89.
A young man woke-up from his “restless” slumber — his name was Cameron Seneca, a proud Cayuga, who had been a student at the Nation’s cultural center for more than two years.
His night of rest quickly ended, as he rushed down the stairs from his bedroom, only to find a group of men donning Cayuga Nation Police flak jackets.
It was a raid, and it started around 2 a.m.
Decked from head-to-toe in tactical gear with ski-masks covering their faces, the armed militia ransacked 12 buildings, all of which were owned both in deed and title by the Cayuga Nation of New York.
They entered Seneca’s residence without prior notice and semi-automatic assault rifles were drawn, directed at the tenants.
“They came in guns drawn, told us to get up, get out, zip tied us and threw us in their little paddy wagon they had. They set us out in front and made us all watch them demolish everything,” Seneca recalled, just less than 24-hours after that frightful encounter with their own purported Nation police.
While sitting inside one of the Cayuga Nation police-marked vehicles, the tightly-fastened plastic zip ties started to cut-off blood circulation to his wrists.
Even several hours later while standing along State Route 89 protesting yesterday’s raid on Sunday, Feb. 23, Seneca showed his own scars — after a brief encounter with his own purported police department.
Impressions from the zip ties could still be seen. They were digging into his flesh and skin. Those marks lingered long after his hands had been forcibly bound together.
It was after the fact that Cayuga Nation officers informed Seneca that they possessed “a search and seizure order.”
But on that fateful day in February, nothing had been seized, in fact, everything had been destroyed.
The entire site had been demolished overnight. Nothing was left to salvage for the Cayuga traditionalists — not even their schoolhouse, which served as the longhouse for ceremonial gatherings and daycare for their children.
As Seneca sat down alongside some of his family under the veil of darkness, and watched his community get literally and figuratively crushed, the thought of retaliation crept in.
If they sought to resist their temporary detainment, however, they might have been arraigned and taken to their tribal court that’s run by Clint Halftown, the Cayuga Nation’s Bureau of Indian Affairs federal representative, who orchestrated the raid.
By sunrise, their homes were gone. Some families were displaced and other Nations among the Haudenosaunee welcomed the refugees with open arms and a warm place to stay, which shielded them from the winter elements.
Their homes may have been destroyed, but their traditions hadn’t — despite losing the schoolhouse.
It was considered to be “the cultural heart of the community,” but had been demolished by Halftown.
Seneca admitted that he was “greatly devastated” that the schoolhouse “was taken away from our kids” — a space where cultural knowledge was passed along and preserved for generations.
They had been forced off their own land and the teachings that were once a part of it — their way of life.
Although the schoolhouse had been erased from the map, Seneca believes that his people can always remember their teachings and carry them wherever they may go.
“We can always rebuild, but he can never take away from what we learned,” Seneca said.
Almost a year ago, Seneca was “still trying to wake up from that nightmare” after surviving and being able to tell the tale of what happened on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020.
“We come from a long line of survivors and colonization. We know that we have it in our blood to keep moving forward so we can’t let something like this destroy us,” he ended.
“I commend you for your coverage and I encourage you to continue to shine a bright light on all of this silliness.” — Feb. 22, 2021
A year later, not much has changed on the ground here in Seneca Falls, but Gabriel Galanda, the managing lawyer at Galanda Broadman, called the U.S. Department of Interior’s denial of the Nation’s 15-year land-into-trust application “a seismic decision” during a recent conversation with FingerLakes1.com.
That federal decision, which cited FingerLakes1.com’s reporting, “greatly diminished” the authority of Halftown — even though the United States still recognizes his faction as the ruling leadership of the Cayuga Nation.
When asked about whether they are hearing our reporting, Galanda answered back immediately.
“There is no doubt that the Halftown faction and Mr. [Lee] Alcott are hearing you, hearing us and hearing their opponents. I have received communications from Mr. Alcott questioning me and challenging me,” he admitted.
Most of all, Galanda presses that Halftown and company are “making it up as they go,” claiming that everything they’ve presented to the public over the last year is purely “pretend.”
“This whole thing is pretend: pretend government, pretend judicial system, pretend police force and nothing Mr. [Lee] Alcott can say, by bootstrapping a bunch of disparate lines from Supreme Court precedents into some document or press release, changes the fact that this is pretend,” he insisted.
A year’s worth of fabrications and falsehoods from the Halftown faction have been sewn “rather transparently,” according to Galanda.
“We can all see right through it, and they’re simply eventually not going to get away from it,” he later added.
Since then, the coverage hasn’t stopped coming at FingerLakes1.com, and Galanda explained that he’s been hearing from the Haudenosaunee through the countless stories told about the Cayuga Nation, which have been shared and disseminated throughout Indigenous communities across North America.
“I will also say to you that your coverage is working because I’m getting all sorts of calls from Haudenosaunee people, including Cayuga peoples thanking me for my opinions and observations, remarking about your coverage and otherwise asking what can be done to stop the insanity. So, I commend you for your coverage and I encourage you to continue to shine a bright light on all of this silliness,” Galanda ended.
Last year, FingerLakes1.com started leading the region’s coverage on Cayuga Nation leadership conflict, and has chronicled every single article, podcast and audio program relating to the overarching story below:
Investigation reveals arrests never happened, raising questions about Cayuga Nation police court system | Gabriel Pietrorazio | Feb. 12, 2021
FL1 DAILY: Wanda John talks about Cayuga Nation arrests after last year’s violent weekend [podcast] | Gabriel Pietrorazio and Josh Durso | Feb. 12, 2021
FL1 News files U.S. Dept. of Interior FOIA requests after Cayuga Nation lawsuit | Gabriel Pietrorazio | Feb. 10, 2021
Cayuga Nation leadership seeks over $600,000 from Seneca Falls tenants behind on rent | Josh Durso | Feb. 8, 2021
Seneca County will petition Supreme Court to review decision on $6M in unpaid taxes by Cayuga Nation | FingerLakes1.com | Oct. 29, 2020
IN-DEPTH: Are local leaders engaging in international affairs when dealing with the Cayuga Nation conflict? | Gabriel Pietrorazio | Aug. 24, 2020
Federal government rules against Cayuga Nation’s land-into-trust application in Cayuga, Seneca counties | Gabriel Pietrorazio | Aug. 7, 2020
Attorneys for Seneca County respond to Cayuga Nation interpretation of major court ruling | Josh Durso | July 20, 2020
Halftown: Decision confirms what Cayuga Nation has been saying for all these years | FingerLakes1.com | July 10, 2020
DAILY DEBRIEF: Traditionalists blindsided by Cayuga Nation lawsuit against federal government [podcast] | Gabriel Pietrorazio | Jun. 23, 2020
Cayuga Nation sues federal government over land-into-trust application | Josh Durso | Jun. 17, 2020
DAILY DEBRIEF: Cayuga Nation, officials in Cayuga County explore possibility of large casino, hotel in Union Springs [podcast] | Gabriel Pietrorazio | May 20, 2020
DAILY DEBRIEF: Lawyers for Cayuga Nation respond to refusal of building permits in Seneca County [podcast] | Gabriel Pietrorazio | May 13, 2020
DAILY DEBRIEF: Bowman waits for answers from officials in Seneca County [podcast] | Gabriel Pietrorazio | May 6, 2020
Protest will highlight ongoing leadership dispute within Cayuga Nation | Gabriel Pietrorazio | Mar. 17, 2020
EDITOR’S RESPONSE: No room for manipulation in journalism | Josh Durso | Mar. 13, 2020
Cayuga Nation unrest continues after meeting in Seneca Falls | Gabriel Pietrorazio | Mar. 13, 2020
Union Springs leaders, lawyers lay out concerns as Cayuga Nation dispute stalls | Gabriel Pietrorazio | Mar. 12, 2020
Halftown attorney answers tough questions on Cayuga Nation dispute | Gabriel Pietrorazio | Mar. 6, 2020
Leadership struggle continues within Cayuga Nation: What’s next? | Gabriel Pietrorazio | Mar. 4, 2020
Addressing land status questions after Cayuga Nation demolition, as leadership struggle continues | Gabriel Pietrorazio | Mar. 3, 2020
EXCLUSIVE: John Kane, host of “Let’s Talk Native” says reinforcements coming to support Cayuga Nation families [podcast] | Gabriel Pietrorazio | Mar. 3, 2020
Cayuga Nation attorneys argue police force has authority in new letter to local law enforcement | Josh Durso | Mar. 2, 2020
EXCLUSIVE: Man detained by Cayuga Nation police vows to press charges | Gabriel Pietrorazio | Mar. 2, 2020
Tensions reach breaking point in Seneca Falls over Cayuga Nation leadership | Gabriel Pietrorazio | Mar. 1, 2020
Violence erupts in Seneca Falls after Cayuga Nation press conference | Josh Durso | Feb. 29, 2020
INSIDE THE FLX: Nationally recognized Indigenous rights lawyer weighs in on Cayuga Nation conflict [podcast] | Gabriel Pietrorazio and Josh Durso | Feb. 28, 2020
Seneca County gives go ahead on Cayuga Nation demolition as federal prosecutors begin investigation | FingerLakes1.com | Feb. 27, 2020
Part of Cayuga Nation will hold press conference in Seneca Falls on Saturday | FingerLakes1.com | Feb. 25, 2020
Protest lasts through weekend after demolition at Cayuga Nation property in Seneca Falls | Gabriel Pietrorazio | Feb. 24, 2020
Protesters call for Halftown to step down after buildings demolished in Seneca Falls | Josh Durso | Feb. 23, 2020
Supervisors take action, law enforcement gives updates on Cayuga Nation [full coverage] | Josh Durso | Feb. 22, 2020