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NY Times 1.30.2000 Our Towns_ Tribal Justice They'd Settle for Syracuse.30.2000 Our Towns

NY Times 1.30.2000 Our Towns_ Tribal Justice They'd Settle for Syracuse.30.2000 Our Towns

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Our Towns; Tribal Justice? They'd Settle For Syracuse
By MATTHEW PURDYPublished: January 30, 2000
ONONDAGAINDIANNATION
 WHEN representatives of theOnondaga Nation met with state officials last year to identify landthat they say was illegally taken from them, they mentioned oneeye-catching parcel: a piece of ground commonly known as the city of Syracuse.''The city of Syracuse, 160,000 people,'' Chief Irving Powless saidthe other day in his large log home on rural Onondaga land just south of Syracuse. ''It'sin total violation.''Consternation and hostility over Indian land claims are boiling in central New York.The Onondagas' announced plans to sue alleging theft of the state's fifth-largest city arehardly lowering the flame.But the question of who owns Syracuse is not just about land, since few debate who washere first. Like the other land disputes, it is also about time.To the white landowners, the Indians are living in the past. ''To claim the whole city of Syracuse, it's mind-boggling,'' said Mary Teelin, a Syracuse nurse. Said Leon Koziol, alawyer for the landowners, ''It is an excellent way to raise large amounts ofcash on the backs of taxpayers to settle a 200-year-old wrong that could never be corrected inmodern times.''TO the Indians, the past is inseparable from the present. They say the white landownerssee history as a commodity, easily discarded.Chief Powless and another Onondaga chief, Oren Lyons, grew up hunting and fishingtogether in the rolling hills and streams of their 7,000-acre nation. Chief Powless is 70and Chief Lyons is a few months younger, but full, smooth faces and ponytails hide it.They were raised on the story of stolen land and a debt owed by the descendants of European invaders. Now they are trying to collect it. The old treaties are alive to them.''I was there,'' Chief Powless said. ''My relatives were there.''Indian land disputes, settled in many states, rage on in New York. In 1985, the SupremeCourt found that the state violated federal law 200 years ago by buying Indian land without federal approval. A federal jury in Syracuse is now considering how much the state owes the CayugaIndians for 64,000 acres taken illegally. A claim of250,000 acres by the Oneida Indiansis being negotiated. The Onondagas' claim is the most dramatic, seeking land andcompensation for some of the most valuable property in this part of the state.The moment is precarious for the Onondagas. ''The potential for failure is high,'' Chief Lyons said. Once a claim is resolved, recouping more land will be hard and their legendof the unpaid debt will be altered.
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Our Towns - Tribal Justice? They'd Settle For Syracuse - NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2000/01/30/nyregion/our-towns-tribal-justice-th...1 of 2 6/15/2010 2:44 PM

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