The Cayuga Nation under federal representative Clint Halftown demolished three structures in Seneca County on Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s just heartbreaking to see it happen,” Nation member Leanna Young said Friday. “And it’s really discouraging to see no one helping us.”
Nation member says demolished house used for Cayuga Indian Nation youth programs (video)
Nation member says the house had a purpose
Young says she showed up to the house on County Road 124 in the Town of Varick last week only to find a pay-loader had knocked it down. It was hurtful, she says, because this property means a lot to her.
“This was a place where our community came together for birthday parties, there have been luncheons here, we have been receiving other nations that come in, other groups that come in, this is where everybody comes to feel safe,” Young said. “This also was the place of our summer program we held this year for the first time ever. Our summer youth met her two times a week.”
Young says her friend, Wanda John, was in charge of this property.
“She’s one of our eldest matriarchs here,” explained Young. “Everybody calls her grandma. She’s everybody’s grandma, she’s like my mother. She’s a woman I respect, she’s a woman I work with.”
Halftown tells a different story
Clint Halftown, the Cayuga Nation’s federally-recognized leader, paints a very different picture of what went on at the site.
In a release, Halftown’s representatives say those using this house were trespassers who tried to use Nation-owned property without permission for illegal activity.
They included this picture, which they say shows evidence of mail-order marijuana sales operating out of this house.
But Young says it was a historic, important house to the Town of Varick, and it shouldn’t have been demolished.
“This land has so much potential and we were intending to use it to build our community base again because of the amount of space that we have,” Young said. “And he knew that we were making plans to make it so and he took it from us.”
Rebecca is a veteran multimedia journalist serving as one of our core reporters in the Finger Lakes region. She is responsible for telling stories that matter to every day Upstate New Yorkers. Have a question or lead? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.