A congressman has written to the federal government's top official on Indian affairs, telling him he showed poor judgment in comments he made this week during a visit to the Oneida Indian Nation's Turning Stone casino.
Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-New Hartford, criticized Bureau of Indian Affairs head Kevin Gover for his remarks about the taxable status of land purchased by the Oneidas.
During a visit to the casino Monday, Gover was asked about the Oneidas refusal to pay property taxes on some 13,000 acres they have acquired in Oneida and Madison counties. He replied, "It is not inappropriate that Indians should exercise dominion over their own land."
In a letter sent Thursday, Boehlert said, "The land's status remains legally unclear, at best.
"Holding a federal conference at the casino and making remarks that could inflame an already difficult situation show remarkably poor judgment," the congressman said.
In a lawsuit pending in federal court since 1974, the Oneidas claim 250,000 acres in Madison and Oneida counties .