Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn wrote in a summary judgment ruling that New York State’s purchase of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s (SRMT) reservation lands in the 1800s violated the federal Non-Intercourse Act. The lands purchased by the state are known as the “Hogansburg Triangle” and is in the center of the reservation reserved for use by SRMT tribal members in a 1796 Treaty, which was ratified by U.S. Congress on May 31, 1796. 

The decision is considered historic by the Tribe. “The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is pleased to report that the decades-long dispute over the reservation boundary has been decided upon by the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York,” said the SRMT in a press release yesterday.

New York State purchased nearly 2,000 acres of reservation land from the Tribe in 1824 and 1825, without the presence of a federal commissioner or a subsequent legislation approving the transfer of title. The Non-Intercourse Act was one of the U.S. Government’s adopted six federal statutes beginning in 1790 and ending in 1834 to regulate commerce with Indian Nations and to clearly establish the rules for the purchase of tribal property. The act specified that only legislation ratified by the U.S. Congress could transfer title of lands to a purchaser. 

Want more Native News? Get the free daily newsletter today.

“To say that we are pleased is an understatement,” said Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief Beverly Cook of yesterday’s court decision. “We should all be proud of the perseverance that our recent and ancient ancestors displayed, who stood fast in their determination to protect our lands.

“The process will continue to require patience and critical thinking, as we seek to unwind the many complexities of a final remedy and settlement of our land claim,” added Cook. 

Yesterday’s ruling settled the State and County counterclaims that the Tribe’s reservation was disestablished or diminished by later treaties. Yesterday’s ruling reaffirms that the 1796 Treaty boundaries remain in place and encompass, not only the Hogansburg Triangle, but the Massena Mile Square, the Fort Covington Mile Square and adjacent town, and the Grasse River meadows areas, all set aside in the 1796 Treaty.

Judge Kahn’s summary did not include a remedy to rectify or correct the illegal taking of reservation lands by New York State, however. 

“We still haven’t heard from the County or the State on yesterday’s ruling,” said SRMT Communications Director Brendan White to Native News Online.

More Stories Like This

US Army to Return 5 Native Ancestors to Their Descendants This Fall
‘Road to Healing’ Will Visit Boarding School Survivors in Minnesota on June 3
Senator Warren Revives Indian Boarding School Legislation with Bipartisan Support
Sweeping Maine Tribal Sovereignty Effort Likely Won’t Happen Until 2024
A Quarter-Century Later, Cal State Fullerton Prepares to Repatriate Native Ancestors Again

Native News is free to read.

We hope you enjoyed the story you've just read. For the past dozen years, we’ve covered the most important news stories that are usually overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the rise of the American Indian Movement (AIM), to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous People (MMIP) and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools.

Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps.  Most readers donate between $10 and $25 to help us cover the costs of salaries, travel and maintaining our digital platforms. If you’re in a position to do so, we ask you to consider making a recurring donation of $12 per month to join the Founder's Circle. All donations help us remain a force for change in Indian Country and tell the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked.

Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you. 

About The Author
Author: Darren ThompsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a staff reporter for Native News Online who is based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.