New letter urges Interior Secretary Haaland to “examine the impact” of Halftown’s leadership in Seneca County

The Seneca County Board of Supervisors has sent out a scathing letter, urging U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to assess the Cayuga Nation’s federally-recognized leadership council after the factional dispute has intensified throughout the last year — in the absence of any federal intervention.

Their unanimous decision to draft and send a new letter to the Interior’s top-ranking federal official as well as Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Darryl LaCounte and Kimberly Bouchard, BIA Eastern Regional director, comes just a few weeks after the county’s August 10 meeting, and an end of a weeklong strategic social media movement.

County supervisors are asking for the BIA to “reflect upon the recent history and negative impacts of its decision to anoint Clint Halftown as the federal representative of the Cayuga Indian Nation,” according to a press statement.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Hayssen, says “the safety and economic welfare of our joint community is at stake,” especially for local business enterprises.

“While we understand that we have no authority in the decision making process, it is critical that the Bureau hear from other voices with a stake in the future of the Cayuga Indian Nation in Seneca County,” Hayssen added. 

Citing a series of concerns from the county’s perspective, which have been mounting for the last 40 years, supervisors specifically reference “the loss of millions of dollars in property tax revenue to the local governments and school districts from tribal fee interest land without any reduction in services required to be provided, the deployment of an apparently illegitimate tribal police force, erosion of property rights, and confusion as to civil rights and obligations for both tribal and non-tribal members of the local community.”

Investigation reveals arrests never happened, raising questions about Cayuga Nation police, court system

“For the past decade, actions taken by the faction of the Cayuga Indian Nation led by Clint Halftown as the currently recognized federal representative have caused unrest, civil strife and issues of public safety,” their letter elaborates.

A recent Freedom of Information Law request filed by FingerLakes1.com, which had been completed by the New York State Police revealed how Senior Investigator John A. Stubbe of Troop E Violent Crime Investigation Team, had been asked by the Seneca Falls Police Department to open a lead case and assist in continued monitoring of the Nation seizing property back, which started during the early hours of February 22, 2020. Flanked by Investigators Eric Fuenfstueck, George Grbic, Jeremy Kierst and Gregory Schmitter, Stubbe later wrote an incident report about that weekend.

Supervisors also reminded officials that the federal agency’s denial of the Nation’s land-into-trust application from around this time in last August was “based in part on the pattern of oppression, violence, and threats of physical and economic abuse towards members of the Nation’s local community, let alone the public in general.”

Galanda: U.S. Capitol insurrection, Cayuga Nation demolition share “striking similarities”

“The 3:00 a.m. attack on commercial and personal interests by Mr. Halftown’s paramilitary ‘security forces’ on February 22, 2020, and the continued alleged harassment by the Halftown Cayuga Nation Police, of both tribal and community members, are but a few sad examples of the actions of the current tribal leadership under Mr. Halftown,” their letter reads.

Several Nation-owned properties were destroyed during an overnight raid along State Route 89. Credit: Gabriel Pietrorazio, FingerLakes1.com.

While Seneca County explained that they would not “pick and choose” who they believe rightfully represents the Nation, supervisors insist it’s clear that the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ leadership’s commitment to fairness and cultural values “offers our communities a better path forward to understanding and a positive model for the future.”

Shortly after supervisors agreed to send decision to draft a letter, Halftown responded to FingerLakes1.com, claiming “the County is not yet serious about establishing a positive government-to-government relationship and still is in denial about its failed strategy regarding the Nation and its reservation” when they’re willing to speak with traditional leadership from the Council of Chiefs like Sachem Chief Sam George.

Although the Bureau of Indian Affairs does not officially recognize the Council of Chiefs, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. proudly displays Sam George [left], the Nations Bear Clan chief, in an exhibit about the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794. Credit: Gabriel Pietrorazio, FingerLakes1.com.
Michael Sliger, Esq., an adjunct professor of law at Cornell Law School, who is legally representing the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ traditional faction, stands by the countys strongly-worded letter.

“The message from Cayuga citizens is clear: the Halftown Council’s improper claim to power and unmitigated tyranny must end, and the traditional Council of Chiefs and Clan Mothers must be recognized as the rightful leadership of the Cayuga Nation,” Sliger told FingerLakes1.com. “The traditional leadership of the Nation looks forward to continuing to work with neighboring communities to carve a path forward for the betterment of all involved, and appreciates the County’s support, and willingness, to work with the traditional leadership toward that common goal.”

The county issues a final charge for the federal agency, too. In the event that Halftown and his council “cannot be trusted to lead their own people justly and fairly, alternative leadership should be seriously considered for recognition.”

Aside from federal officials at the BIA and Interior, U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Reps. Tom Reed and John Katko, were also sent copies of the county’s letter in addition to State Senator Pam Helming as well as Assemblymen Brian Manktelow and Jeff Gallahan.

Editor’s Note: Click here to read the entire letter that had been sent by the Seneca County Board of Supervisors.