Officials of the Seneca Nation of Indians are upset at Gov. George E. Pataki for cutting a deal with the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma to open a casino in the Catskills.
"We're going to take staunch action against this. The deal is illegal. The governor doesn't have the right to deal with tribes outside New York State," Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder Sr. said Saturday.
He and other Senecas believe the agreement between Pataki and the Oklahoma tribe to settle its land claim against New York State would weaken the sovereignty of existing tribes in the state.
In exchange for building and operating a casino in the Catskills, the tribe would collect taxes on products normally sold tax-free on reservation lands and pass the money to the state.
That's something the Senecas, who operate numerous smoke shops and gas stations, have successfully fought for years. When the Senecas entered a gambling compact with the state about two years ago, they succeeded in keeping the question of tax collections out of it.
"It's outrageous," Snyder said of the Seneca-Cayuga agreement. "I can't understand why the governor would do this. The next thing you know he'll be dealing with tribes in Arizona."
The agreement, which needs approval from Congress and the State Legislature, requires the Oklahoma tribe to relinquish its interest in a multimillion-dollar federal court judgment obtained jointly by it and the Cayuga Indian Nation two years ago.
A federal court set the award to both Indian nations after ruling New York had illegally purchased 64,000 acres of Indian land in Cayuga and Seneca counties more than 200 years ago.