Mohawks file fourth land claim as frustration mounts with Franklin County

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe administration offices on State Route 37 in Hogansburg, N.Y. as seen in this Dec. 13, 2014, file photo. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

AKWESASNE, N.Y. – The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe says it’s filed a fourth application with the American government to claim land in Northern New York State.

The so-called Land into Trust application would revert land, the tribe claims was illegally taken by the state, to reservation status.

The trust applications, filed with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, are for a half dozen pieces of land around Brasher, Fort Covington and Bombay, N.Y. One parcel of land is 143 acres.

The tribe is also planning to submit another round of applications within two months.

This is the tribal council’s backup plan due to problems reaching an agreement with the county.

While the tribe signed a three-way memorandum of understanding in 2014 with St. Lawrence County and New York State, the same hasn’t gone as smoothly with Franklin County, southeast of Cornwall, Ont.

“We’ve been negotiating in good faith, and we are hopeful that our land claim will be settled, but we can no longer assume the Franklin County Legislature is committed to doing the same,” the tribal chiefs said.

“We are frustrated enough that we are moving ahead with the land into trust process,” said Dale White, the tribe’s lawyer. “The negotiations have been an investment in our belief that it is the right thing to do, but the tribe cannot engage in settlement talks that never seem to end. The lack of agreement will hurt the local governments who have been offered millions of dollars in compensation.”

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe says it has $30 million waiting to be released to communities once there’s a signed agreement.