Interior’s Bryan Newland reopens consideration of Cayuga Nation’s land-into-trust application denial

Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland has advised the Interior Department to reconsider the Cayuga Nation’s denial of a 114-acre land-into-trust application.

The development came last week from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as the Cayuga Nation Council, led by Clint Halftown, has kept pushing their legal teams to challenge the decision dating back to July 31, 2020.

A recent joint letter authored by Seneca County law enforcement and judicial officials accompanied other unnamed documents sent to Newland, prompting further review of a ruling carried out by Tara Sweeney, a Trump appointee and former BIA assistant secretary.

Newland revealed he’s “familiar” with his predecessor’s actions in a Dec. 8 letter written to the plaintiff’s legal counsel.

He even directed the agency to reopen the Nation’s fee-to-trust application on Nov. 22, upon preliminarily reviewing “new information” relating to the pair of February 2020 incidents.

After six months, Newland intends to “issue a new decision on the Tribe’s application.”

“The Department of the Interior’s withdrawal of the faulty 2020 decision is an overdue but welcome development,” Halftown said in a statement.

Despite the federal government’s latest decision to reconsider the Nation’s application, the disconnect between the Nation and local communities has exponentially amplified — even in the denial’s aftermath.

Over the summer, a grassroots campaign #HalftownMustGo in support of the traditional Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ Council of Chiefs organized online, contacting local, federal officials and agencies to alert them about the dueling events in February 2020, including Newland’s office.

Michael Sliger, an adjunct professor of law at Cornell Law School, who also serves as legal counsel for the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ traditional faction, has declined to comment to FingerLakes1.com at this time. 

 

Local, county officials vocalizing concerns about Cayuga Nation:

 

Editor’s Note: A previous version of the story referred to a written statement, attributing Maria Stagliano, an account executive at Levick, a Washington-based crisis public relations firm, who also represents the Cayuga Nation in her official capacity as a spokesperson. The quoted remark was in fact a comment made by Clint Halftown, leader of the Cayuga Nation Council, in a statement published on the Nation’s website.