Feature President

A message from President Rickey L. Armstrong, Sr.


I hope you remembered to wear some green and you didn’t get pinched too many times! Well, we are halfway through March and the first day of spring is right around the corner. Although I heard about some wild onions during that warm spell and our maple sap is flowing, I haven’t seen any robins out yet.

As I’m sure most of you may be aware, our gaming compact with the state of New York will expire at the end of this year. I have reported previously that the Nation has had several on-going meetings with NYS representatives and those meetings will continue. We recently held two community meetings to provide updates on where we are, where we want things to go and what our options are moving forward. No single issue is more important to our Nation than a fair gaming compact because of what our gaming enterprises enable us to do for our people. Many of us remember what life was like when we received a twenty-five-dollar annuity payment once per year, in December. We had substandard housing, healthcare and educational support. In the past two decades we have been able to invest in every generation of Seneca, from our youngest children to our elders. All our community, social and health services have improved immensely over time. Revenue streams from our casinos have been the economic engine behind those improvements and the progressively increased direct benefits we all enjoy to this day. Our current compact has basically remained the same during the last twenty years, but NYS has manipulated the playing field. One of the most important elements of our compact is exclusivity, as it provides us with a competitive advantage. How we define exclusivity and what we are willing to pay for it is all part of our negotiation strategy. Frankly, we need to keep our hand close to our chest, so to speak. In the community meetings, we requested that our membership please refrain from posting information about our internal discussions on social media or sharing information with people outside of our Seneca communities, as this weakens our negotiating position and gives New York State an advantage to plan against us. We must not compromise our responsibility to the people, Mother Earth and our future generations. Just as the people’s voices were heard in 2002, the Seneca membership will have an opportunity to weigh in, again. Before any compact with New York State is approved, we will hold a referendum. As robust as our discussions can sometimes appear in an open forum; and as we prepare to advance our strategies to pave the way for an improved quality of life for future generations – we are truly and historically all in this together.

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, the Northern Border Regional Commission, and the Appalachian Regional Commission have selected the Seneca Nation, partnership with the City of Salamanca, as a community to receive planning assistance through the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities program, which aims to help communities enhance outdoor recreation opportunities and strengthen downtowns. This effort includes community workshops for action planning and site visits, which are open to all community members. The main discussion points are: 1) enlivening downtown, 2) improving infrastructure, 3) bridging silos and prioritizing projects, 4) marketing and branding and 5) expanding outdoor recreation activities and other visitation offerings. There will be a series of additional site visit workshops and they are hoping for additional community participation. For additional information about this partnership, please contact Courtney John-Jemison by email at: Courtney.John.Jemison@sni.org, or by phone at: (716) 532-4900, X5093; or Sandy Brundage by email at: sbrundage@salmun.com or by phone at: (716) 945-1311.

With how unpredictable these weather patterns have been lately, please don’t forget to check in on your loved ones, especially our elders. Hang in there, spring will be here very soon!

Rickey L. Armstrong, Sr.