Unrest within the Cayuga Nation has spilled over into the community-at-large.
Residents voiced concerns over the weekend after a video shared to social media showed a purported member of the Cayuga Nation Police Department firing a gun into a pickup truck at a property on Bayard Street Extension.
The video, posted on September 17 shows a person firing what appears to be a long-gun into the front of a pickup truck hours after Nation police executed a search warrant at 2954 E. Bayard Street Extension earlier in the day.
Following the search, two men were arrested on more than 25 charges by the Seneca Falls Police Department. An illegal shotgun and other weapons were recovered during the search of the property, which is owned by the Cayuga Nation. The Nation said the two individuals arrested were not part of their tribe.
In response to the video’s circulation on social media, Seneca Falls Police Chief Stu Peenstra said his agency is investigating the incident.
“This incident has been reported to law enforcement and is currently under investigation by our agency. I am unable to comment on an open investigation,” Peenstra said. “I want to add that anyone with direct knowledge regarding this incident or any other incident is asked to contact the Seneca Falls Police Department so we can obtain a supporting deposition. We have found that the individuals we can identify when these incidents are reported or directly involved when law enforcement arrives on the scene are reluctant or refuse to provide statements.”
Residents who live in the area voiced concerns about the unrest, as well as growing incidents of violence between competing factions of the Nation. However, this isn’t the first instance where non-native residents have voiced concerns about public safety in Seneca Falls. At recent meetings of the Seneca Falls Town Board and Seneca County Board of Supervisors, residents and community stakeholders have asked for local elected officials to intervene.
However, due to legal complexities involving the Cayuga Nation, property it owns and how its managed at the state and federal level, as well as overall authority of the Cayuga Nation Police Department, local authorities and elected leaders have been without recourse.
Seneca County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Hayssen said he wasn’t aware of the internal workings of what was unfolding with the Nation after the recorded incident as posted to social media.
“I sure hope it wasn’t one of Clint [Halftown’s] rent-a-cops discharging a weapon while not on ‘reservation property’,” Hayssen said in an email to FingerLakes1.com. The dispute over land status, and whether it’s ‘reservation’ or simply property owned by the Cayuga Nation, has been at the center of debate between Seneca County and the Cayuga Nation. “That should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law. The citizens of Seneca County deserve better,” Hayssen added, speaking to the video in question.
The Cayuga Nation issued the following statement about the incident:
“In the early morning hours of September 17, 2022, a White Dodge Ram pickup truck operated by Regina and Billy Redeye appeared at the Cayuga Nation Justice Center on Route 89 in Seneca Falls and rammed the truck into the security gate. The driver then drove to a different gate facing the Garden Street Extension and rammed the truck into that gate as well. Also that morning, the same white Dodge Ram pulled on to the property of 2954 E. Bayard Street and accelerated towards Cayuga Nation Police officers guarding the property, while shouting racial epithets at one officer. Fearing for officer safety, a Cayuga Nation police officer discharged deterrent bean bag rounds, contacting the truck’s windshield, causing the driver to leave the scene. No injuries were reported.”
FingerLakes1.com has reached out to Town and County leaders, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs for clarification on a number of matters.