With planting season underway, we stopped by the Seneca Nation's Agriculture Department - Gakwi:yo;h Farms to hear about all the good things they've got going on in the fields.
In the follow up workshop for the "Get Hooked on Fishing" series (view part 1 here) at the Allegany Community Center participants learned about cleaning, preparing, and cooking walleyes. Shane Titus demonstrates how to clean a fish while Gerry Fisher showed how to prepare it into a delicious meal.
On Saturday, May 1, 2019 the Seneca Nation Sustainability Collaborative hosted it's "Pole to Plate" event, which was the culmination of the 3-part fishing classes that have been held over the last 2 months. The event turned out great and a good time was held by all participants. Nya:wëh to all the Seneca Nation Departments that made the event happen!
On May 30th, we celebrated June Conklin's 101st Birthday at the Post #1587 Legion. President Rickey Armstrong, Clerk Bethany Johnson, Commander Ronald Cook Jr. and June's daughter spoke during this special occasion of honoring our oldest enrolled Seneca member. Becky Bowen served as the Emcee for the day. Ja:goh June. Nya:wëh to all who attended the celebration luncheon.
The black bear is common around the Allegany Territory and recently one had been rummaging trash cans in the Steamburg community. It was humanely captured and released. The Seneca Nation Conservation Department wants to remind you that they're available to help remove unwanted wildlife.
Seneca Nation Dispatch: Allegany - (716) 945-2779 & Cattaraugus - (716) 532-3040
ALLEGANY TERRITORY, SALAMANCA, N.Y. – Citing a regulatory requirement that a State who is a party to a Compact under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), must “certify” an amendment submission to the United States Department of Interior (DOI), the Interior Department has informed the Seneca Nation that, as part of the submission, federal regulations require that New York State certifies that the Governor has the authority to enter into the amendment.
In April, two members of a three-person arbitration panel determined that the Seneca Nation was obligated to continue making revenue sharing payments to New York State after Year 14 of the Nation-State Gaming Compact, despite the complete absence of any language to that effect in the Compact, which went onto effect in 2002. By creating an obligation that did not previously exist, the panel’s ruling effectively amended the agreed upon terms of the Compact. Following federal law under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Nation requested that DOI review the amendment created by the panel’s ruling. The written response received from Interior indicates that, in order to review the amendment, the Department would have to receive a certification from New York State that the Governor had the authority to enter into the amendment.
“While we regret that we must return the proposed Arbitration Award, we look forward to a new submission that includes a complete set of documents in compliance with the requirements of 25 C.F.R. Part 293,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary John Tahsuda stated in his letter to the Seneca Nation.
“This action by the Department of Interior unfortunately fails to resolve the ongoing disagreement between the State of New York and the Seneca Nation. Without federal review, the amendment crafted by the arbitration panel remains unenforceable,” President Rickey L. Armstrong, Sr. said.
“Before notifying the State that our revenue share obligation had ended, we requested and received confirmation, in writing, that the Interior Department concurred with us that the Compact payment obligation ended after 14 years,” President Armstrong continued. “With that confirmation, the Seneca Nation leadership made a final payment to New York State in March 2017, completing our 14-year obligation.”
“Once the arbitration panel finalized its ruling, which amended the Compact, we moved expeditiously to submit our request to the Department of the Interior within a matter of days, in the hope that the Department would make a decision that would resolve this impasse once and for all. Instead, we were notified after seven weeks that the review process never even started.”
Upon receipt of the decision by Interior on Wednesday, the Seneca Nation filed suit in federal court to have the arbitration decision vacated for being inconsistent with federal law, or, in the alternative, staying enforcement until the Secretary of Interior reviews the amendment created by the arbitration decision and finds it consistent with IGRA. The motion filed by the Nation is consistent with the rules governing arbitration proceedings, which were agreed to by the State.
“You cannot simply skip past the fact that the arbitration decision and amendment must concur with federal law, and, right now, the amendment and the law conflict with one another,” President Armstrong said. “The only other alternative to resolve the matter would be for the Nation and the State to come to some agreement and jointly submit it to the Department of Interior for review. The Nation is open to those discussions.”
“Unfortunately, unless the Governor is willing to sit down with the Seneca Nation leadership to negotiate a mutually agreeable resolution that we could submit to the Department of Interior together, I am concerned that this litigation will continue for the foreseeable future, leaving the Seneca Nation and the local governments who benefit tremendously from our gaming operations in legal and financial limbo.”
Since the Seneca Nation began its gaming operations in 2002, the Nation has sent more than $1 Billion in revenue share contributions to Albany. The Seneca Nation has also invested more than $1 Billion to develop its casino properties in Niagara Falls, Salamanca and Buffalo. Today, the Nation’s casino operations employ approximately 4,000 workers, making Seneca Gaming Corporation one of the largest private employers in Western New York.
Community members and local allies are canoeing and kayaking down Ohi:yo' from Coudersport to Pittsburgh to call attention to water issues, particularly the threats from oil and gas pipelines and waste. They will then join Chief Arvol Looking Horse's World Peace and Prayer Day gathering at Fort Ancient, OH on the days leading up to the summer solstice. For more information about the Paddle With Peace and Prayer for Water Protection and to follow their progress, check out their Facebook page.
In a society of laws, rules and procedures matter and they apply to everyone, even the government. This includes the gaming compact signed by the Seneca Nation and New York State.
The compact, which went into effect in 2002, is rooted in federal law, namely the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Because IGRA prohibits a state from taxing a tribe in exchange for a compact, New York required a “revenue share agreement” whereby the Seneca Nation agreed to share a portion of slot machine revenues with New York State for 14 years. In exchange, New York State, again in keeping with IGRA, was obligated to provide something of equal value to the Seneca Nation, namely exclusivity and protection from competition.
The state wasted little time in diminishing the value of that exclusivity.
State-operated video lottery terminals were introduced within the nation’s exclusivity area in 2004 and remain to this day. State-regulated (and taxed) commercial casinos followed, including the siting of a casino minutes from the nation’s exclusivity zone – an operation that, as part of its application to the state, expressly aimed to cannibalize the Seneca Nation’s gaming revenues.
All the while, the nation fully honored our compact payment obligation for 14 years. New York State received more than $1 billion from the Seneca Nation while simultaneously profiting from the diminished value of the exclusivity we paid for and which the state was supposed to protect. What does this say about the state’s willingness to honor its agreements? Apparently not much.
This year, an arbitration panel determined that the nation’s payment obligation to New York State continues after Year 14 of the Compact, despite the fact that the compact has absolutely no language to this effect. “Amendment” means what it means, and the panel’s decision amends the compact.
Under IGRA, all compact amendments must be reviewed and approved by the secretary of the interior. The nation, rightfully, requested that the Department of the Interior review the compact amendment. Conversely, New York State seems more than happy to, again, ignore process and obligation at the expense of the Seneca Nation.
Now, New York is considering the legalization of sports wagering. Our compacts would permit the Seneca Nation and other native nations in New York to offer this amenity to our gaming patrons, if passed. Some want the state to ignore that fact and somehow attempt to not include the Seneca casinos in the sports wagering equation. Thankfully, State Sen. Joseph Addabbo took the time to consult and include the native nations on an issue that could impact our gaming operations.
In asking for a federal review of the compact amendment, as required by law, and in considering the addition of sports wagering to our casino offerings, the Seneca Nation is simply trying to hold New York State to the deal that they made. We honored our obligation. The state should do the same.