An overnight raid of the Pipekeepers Tobacco & Gas store kickstarts the new year for the Cayuga Nation, ushering in a renewed, rapidly intensifying factional conflict to end the holiday season.
It started around 3 a.m. when the Cayuga Nation Police Department arrived at the storefront on 126 East Bayard St. in Seneca Falls, New York.
Officers were taking boxes out while boarding the storefront windows and doorways with sheets of plywood before Dustin Parker and Nora Weber, the couple who operates the smoke shop, were detained during the incident, according to eyewitnesses.
As a black Chevy van drives into the parking lot facing the double door entrance, a horde of men dressed in Nation police jackets swarm the vehicle.
The driver, Nora Weber, was pulled out by officers, planting her face-first onto the pavement before being propped up against the front entrance of the building with her hands wrapped behind her back. Her boyfriend, Dustin, who followed in his truck, stepped out of the vehicle to confront the officers after they restrained her.
Parker and Weber who are a part of an ongoing civil court proceeding over back-owed rent, remained in the custody of Nation police at the headquarter building along State Route 89. Eventually, Parker was released earlier this morning, but Weber is now being held within Seneca County and set to be arraigned later this evening.
The Seneca-Cayuga Nation of Oklahoma sold the raided property for $1 million to the Cayuga Nation of New York, controlled by Clint Halftown, the federally-recognized representative, and the Cayuga Nation Council.
“At first, we didn’t believe it,” Weber told FingerLakes1.com. “It’s all to smudge our names. We didn’t take it seriously.”
They only heard rumors from non-Native customers that their location’s ownership transferred title to Halftown’s faction — unbeknownst to them — without any prior notice by the former landlord.
As a concerned tenant, she swiftly contacted Christina Lotz, the Seneca County clerk, on Thursday, Dec. 29, only to find out that a transaction for the property occurred a few days after the Christmas holiday on Monday, Dec. 27.
The $1 million sale purchase for the residential one-acre property assessed at $202,800 was officially confirmed during the Seneca County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 28.
The shop owners were openly worried about the Cayuga Nation Police Department, long before an unannounced raid of their business happened in an eerily similar manner as the demolition of several Nation-owned properties from nearly two years ago in late February 2020.
The Parker family allegedly aired their concerns with the Seneca Falls Police Department — a warning that went unheard — a few weeks ahead of the unknown sale and raid, resulting in the seizure of assets under the veil of night.
The store owned by members of the Cayuga Nation’s traditional faction remained in operation for four months since opening its doors during the Labor Day weekend.
Editor’s Note: The Seneca-Cayuga Nation of Oklahoma hasn’t answered FingerLakes1.com‘s media request, and the story will be updated if a response is provided.
A separate statement released by the Cayuga Nation of New York in the hours following the raid released more information about the incident, revealing that an officer was injured during an altercation involving Weber allegedly attempting to run over officers while even stabbing an individual with a Kubaton stick.
The Nation also explained that local, state and federal offices were informed of the raid in advance of Saturday morning, even inviting them to a briefing beforehand.
“As we have experienced from the previous re-possession of Cayuga Nation properties, there is a small group of criminals posing as ‘traditionalists’ in an effort to mask their illegal activity,” Halftown said in a statement. “These individuals attempt to undermine our ability to self-govern by encouraging violence within our community for their own financial and personal gains. By purchasing the property in question, the Cayuga Nation can use the building for future economic development that benefits all Nation members under lawful and safe operations.”