Testimony is expected to take hours. In the end, though, the only question for a U.S. District Court jury to decide is how much compensation the Cayuga Indian Nation should be awarded for its lost ancestral lands.
A nine-member jury will begin hearing evidence today on the value of the Cayugas' claim to more than 64,000 acres in Cayuga and Seneca counties.
In a 1980 lawsuit, the Cayugas contended that the state, in acquiring their land two centuries ago, failed to comply with a 1790 federal law requiring the federal government to approve all land treaties.
A state-hired appraiser is expected to tell the jury that the Cayuga claim is worth $25 million to $40 million, and put the land's rental value at no more than $6 million. An appraiser working for the federal government is expected to put the land's current market value at $264.7 million and its rental value $70.4 million.
The Senecas are watching the Cayugas' trial with interest because it is the first to reach the damages stage and will have an impact on their claims.