Published January 27, 2017
AKWESASNE – The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe submitted a formal application to the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs to have two tribally owned parcels of land, one in Franklin County and one in St. Lawrence County, placed into “trust” status by the BIA. The application was mailed on Monday, January 23, 2017.
“The parcel in Franklin County is a 63.5-acre parcel of vacant land. The St. Lawrence County parcel is a 15-acre parcel that has two structures, a house and a guest house that we will use for tribal programs,” confirmed Tribal Chief Ron LaFrance. Under federal law, 25 U.S.C. 465 and 467, tribes are able to acquire lands and have them converted into “trust” lands that are held in ownership by the U.S. Government for the benefit of tribes. “The principal advantage is these properties will become part of our territory and under tribal control and they will be exempt from state taxes and regulations. We are moving forward with the trust process to expand our territory and meet the needs of our growing community.”
This is the second time the Tribe has submitted a Land In Trust application. In 2011, the Secretary of the Interior approved the 39-acre land in trust application, filed by the Tribe in 2007. In 2014, the SRMT received notification that an administrative ruling had cleared the way for territory expansion after a seven-year wait. The Tribe will now seek trust status for two more parcels.
“The trust process has always been an alternative,” shared Tribal Chief Eric Thompson. “We urge the Franklin County Legislature to share the benefits of settlement with their constituents and move towards a settlement, as St. Lawrence County did in 2014.”
The Memorandum of Understanding between the Tribe, the State and St. Lawrence County, signed on May 28, 2014, outlined terms of a settlement agreement that would provide the Tribe the opportunity to return land to the territory, provide the county and local government with significant economic benefits including in lieu of tax payments and other payments and provide all parties clarity on land acquisition and jurisdictional matters.