Feature President

A message from President Matthew B. Pagels

Nya:wëh sgënö’ gagwe:göh,

I’m thankful you are well. Happy summer! We sure have had plenty of rain over the past month. I hope your gardens are prospering from it.

I’m glad to report our Covid-19 numbers were at zero for the last 10-day snap shot again. You may however, be aware of the new Delta variant that is present in many states including NYS. This variant is extremely contagious and the symptoms are much more severe than other Covid strains. Please remain vigilant in following standard Covid-19 protocols. Also, vaccinated individuals are better protected so please encourage family to get their vaccinations. Contact the health centers for more specific information regarding vaccinations or if you would like to set up a vaccination appointment. (See the Covid-19 Vaccination OPEN ELIGIBILITY announcement on the next page.)

On another important note, the Seneca Nation continues to wait on a decision regarding the motion filed in April with the federal district court, to vacate the previous decision in which the Nation was directed to make the payment to the State. In brief, the Nation agreed to pay a “State Contribution” payment to NYS for a period of 14 years. After this was exhausted the Nation took the position that the obligation was concluded as of December 31, 2016. NYS commenced a formal arbitration proceeding against the Nation, which resulted in the Arbitration panel’s decision to agree with the State. The Nation appealed through to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals who, also agreed with the panel in the lower courts.

A new motion was filed by the Nation and based on a technical assistance letter issued to the Department of the Interior, which indicated that they had never reviewed the payment terms of the compact or if the state contribution rate for the period was lawful. Again, we are awaiting to hear of their ruling. Our current compact will expire in December, 2023.

The Nation also brought forth a lawsuit in 2018 against the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York (WDNY) to stop NYS from continuing to violate the Nation’s treaty rights and federal law by operating the Thruway across Cattaraugus Territory without the required federal government approval. To avoid the state from using a sovereign immunity defense from being sued the Nation has brought suit against certain individuals within the state, namely the Governor, NYS Attorney General, and acting Commissioner of NY Department of Transportation, and the Comptroller of NY. This type of suit is called an “Ex Parte Young” where individuals are sued and not the State specifically.

The State attempted to have the case dismissed due (Continued on page 2) to sovereign immunity against suit, but the WDNY ruled in the Nation’s favor late last year. The State in turn appealed this decision in April of 2021 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and briefing is currently underway. The Nation filed a response to the brief with support from the United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. who filed an amicus brief on July 20, 2021. More information will be forthcoming regarding this case.

On July 23, 2021 the Nation held a Special Council session to create the Cannabis Code, and a Cannabis Authority to oversee the code. The Authority, once appointed, will draft regulations and will be governed by the regulatory Authority Bylaws. All motions creating this initiative were passed during this Council session and will be available for review at the Clerk’s office. The Clerk will post the eligibility requirements to serve on the Commission as soon as it is available.

Continue to have a great summer and as always stay safe, stay strong.

Dah ne’hoh dih ae’.