Unmarked Burial Site Protection Act passage long overdue; Focus must now be put on completing honest Compact negotiations
Allegany Territory, Salamanca, N.Y. – Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. issued the following statement regarding the New York State budget, which was passed and approved late in the evening on Tuesday, May 2:
“The final passage of the New York State Budget included the long-awaited passage of the Unmarked Burial Site Protection Act, which Governor Hochul had vetoed in December.
Since the State Legislature returned to Albany in January, the Seneca Nation and other Native Nations within New York led the effort to ensure this important legislation, and the dignity and respect it provides for our ancestors’ remains, was not again buried beneath the priorities of other interests. Our Nations worked collaboratively to deliver recommendations that expressed our concerns and for which we provided our collective support. We want to thank our supporters in the State Legislature for hearing us, for working with us, and for holding firm to protect important provisions of the Act, namely the exemption for Native lands, the expanded 90-day timeline, and the right of Native Nations to have cultural monitors on site during any excavation.
The Act, finally, provides a clear process, standards and appropriate timelines that will help ensure that unmarked burial sites, remains and funerary objects discovered in New York are rightfully protected from disruption, destruction and desecration and can be restored to the care of our Nations.
Now that the budget has been passed, it is our hope that the Executive Chamber will commit itself to finishing honest negotiations with the Seneca Nation on a fair and equitable gaming Compact before the close of the Legislative session in June. The livelihoods of tens of thousands of individuals and families in Western New York and across the state – Native and non-Native alike – are dependent on the Seneca Nation’s gaming enterprise. The time to act and move forward to protect them is now.”