restricted access “It’s a Question of Fairness”: Fee-to-Trust and Opposition to Haudenosaunee Land Rights and Economic Development
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| 111 “It’s a Question of Fairness” Fee-to-Trust and Opposition to Haudenosaunee Land Rights and Economic Development Meghan Y. McCune S tereotypes and misconceptions about Indigenous sovereignty, particularly gaming, are rampant throughout the United States and are reflected in pop culture discourses. The satirical cartoon South Park took up the issue of Indian gaming in 2003, dedicating an entire episode titled “Red Man’s Greed”tothetopic.TheepisodecentersonanunnamedNativeNationthatoperates “Three Feathers Casino” outside of the fijictional Colorado town of South Park. In order to grow casino profijits, the Nation plans to buy and demolish South Park to build a superhighway from their casino to Denver. Upon learning of the plan, father Randy Marsh tries to comfort his son Stan and Stan’s friends—“It will be ok boys. We’ll just move to the next town over,” he tells them. To which Stan replies, “Oh sure, until the Native Americans decide they want that land too.What if the Native Americans keep building their casinos and highways until we have nowhere else to go? We have to stand up to them now!”1 While the South Park situation is fijictitious and the humor of the episode is rooted in the irony that it was Native Nations who lost their land to rampant U.S. economic and political expansion, in reality anti-Indian economic and sovereignty discourse deployed toward Indigenous gaming uses similar linguistic frames articulated by the fijictional South Park characters. For example, in response to the 112 | Meghan Y. McCune Cayuga Nation’s request to put 125 acres into trust, local resident Gerald Masculoso told the Bureau of Indian Afffairs (BIA), It’s a question of fairness. Not to what occurred two hundred years ago, we cannot correct that. It’s a question of fairness as to what will occur two hundred years hence, to the inhabitants of this particular area.2 Maculoso does not deny the past wrongs experienced by the Haudenosaunee (namelydispossessionof land);hisviewplacesnon-Nativeresidentsof thecounties as modern-day victims. This sentiment is reflected in the City of Sherrill majority opinion; The wrongs of which [the Oneida Indian Nation] complains occurred during the early years of the Republic, whereas, for the past two centuries, New York and its local units have continuously governed the territory. . . . The unilateral reestablishment of present and future Indian sovereign control, even over land purchased at the market price, would have disruptive practical consequences.3 City of Sherrill flipped the script of Indigenous land dispossession established by Oneida I and Oneida II—the decision positioned the reestablishment of sovereign OneidalandinMadisonandOneidaCountiesas“disruptive,”and,inessence,unfair to non-Native residents and non-Native governments. In the wake of City of Sherrill, Haudenosaunee Nations are left with the legal hurdles of laches and disruption, which make continued litigation extremely difffijicult. As a result, the Cayuga and Oneida Nations have turned to the fee-to-trust processtoregainorbuilduponlandbases.Landisacrucialelementfortheexercise of Indigenous sovereignty, and land is also necessary for economic development. Although Native Nations can exercise sovereignty without a land base, a lack of land can put increased strain on Native governments and can stand as a barrier to economic development. For many Native communities, land, tribal businesses, bingo halls, and casinos have become practical symbols of Native sovereignty and economicself-determination.4 AsNativeNationsgaineconomicandpoliticalpower, non-Native opposition to Indigenous sovereignty manifests through anti-gaming and anti-Indian economic development discourse. Cayuga, Oneida, and Seneca economic development in western and central New York State has been met Haudenosaunee Land Rights and Development | 113 by increased opposition from grassroots organizations such as Citizens Against Gambling in Erie County, Coalition Against Gambling in New York, Citizens for a Better Bufffalo, and, most notably, Upstate Citizens for Equality (UCE), a grassroots anti-Indian sovereignty organization. This chapter contextualizes opposition to Cayuga and Oneida economic development and fee-to-trust. Specifijically, I analyze gaming and land discourse directed at the Cayuga Nation and Oneida Nation through the public comments on their respective land-into-trust applications. Opposition to Cayuga and Oneida gaming is tied to opposition to land claims and recent fee-to-trust applications; additionally, both Nations operate gaming facilities in very rural regions. Even in land claim cases, contemporary anti-Indian sovereignty movements center on opposition to Indigenous economic development; a perception of “unfair business practices” is at the heart of UCE discourse and Indigenous sovereignty is framed as an afffront to the economic livelihood of non-Native individuals and businesses. In essence, Haudenosaunee gaming and...


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