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Cayuga Nation leadership dispute intensifies with legal battle

The ongoing leadership dispute within the Cayuga Nation has escalated following a legal move by current leader Clint Halftown.

On November 13, Halftown’s lawyers filed a request for an injunction against the U.S. Department of Justice, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York Trini Ross.

This request, made to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., aims to stop the Justice Department from acknowledging and considering any leadership dispute within the Cayuga Nation.


Opposition to Halftown’s leadership and recent legal actions comes from the Cayuga Council of Chiefs and its supporters, as reported this week by The Finger Lakes Times. They condemned Halftown’s attempt to silence discussions about the unresolved leadership issue.

The Council of Chiefs argues that Halftown’s actions contradict the Great Law of Peace, a traditional Cayuga governance system over a millennium old, according to the Times.

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

The leadership dispute, ongoing since 2004, revolves around conflicting claims to authority within the Nation. Halftown and his council argue for his leadership, citing recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs as the tribe’s federal representative.

In contrast, the Council of Chiefs contends that Halftown was not appropriately chosen according to Cayuga tribal law, which involves selection by clan mothers. They recognize Sam George as the legitimate tribal leader. The legal battle also encompasses the Cayuga Nation’s historic claims and recent land acquisitions around Cayuga Lake.