Ganienkeh since 1977
By: Greg Horn
The People of Ganienkeh reached a deal with the State of New York to relocate to Miner Lake just south of the Canada/US border in 1977. Following this agreement, every building that was constructed in the three preceding years was dismantled and transported to Miner Lake, piece by piece.
In order for Ganienkeh to be established New York State set up something called the Turtle Island Trust. "Turtle Island Trust came into existence during 1977 to fulfill a critical need. A Mohawk Indian community, Ganienkeh, is involved in a controversy with New York State over legal ownership of nine million acres of land," states a Turtle Island Trust document.
"After three years of litigation and formal negotiations, the State offered to restore 5,700 acres of forest land to Ganienkeh in Clinton County. New York proposed to do this through a lease. The Mohawks felt that it would jeopardize their land claims if they leased or purchased what they considered to be their own land. Therefore, the concept of a third party, to lease State land and purchase private land was used. This would enable the Mohawks to occupy and utilize the land in which they have claims on. The trust concept satisfied the legal requirements of both New York State and the Mohawk Nation. An interim resolution was reached by having Turtle Island Trust lease the aforesaid States lands."
There were three trustees who were appointed to administer Turtle Island Trust, they are; Ann L. Maytag, the president of the Ann Maytag Foundation; Dr. Jon L. Regier, the executive director of the New York State Council of Churches; and Robert S. Charland, a retired major of the New York State Police.
The goals of this trust are, (A) The preservation of the traditional culture, heritage, history, religion, language and arts of the Indian Nations of North America. (B) The education of Indians and other members of the public in the traditional culture, heritage, history, religion, language and arts of the Indian Nations of North America. (C) The promotion of racial and cultural harmony and understanding between members of the North American Indian Nations and citizens of the United States. (D) The relief of poverty among members of the North American Indian Nations.
When Ganienkeh first moved to Miner Lake in 1977 the Clinton County legislature had voiced itsopposition to the Mohawk community. On May, 4, 1977, some five months before the community moved from Moss Lake, the Clinton County Legislature voted unanimously their opposition to New York State’s plan to lease 5,700 acres of Clinton County land to Ganienkeh.
This act has been done in later years and but have not received unanimous votes. In the spring of 1981, some of Clinton County’s legislators presented a resolution which petitioned New York State to terminate a certain lease dated September 28, 1977, between the People of the State of New York and the Turtle Island Trust.
This resolution was tabled until the May 13 meeting of the Legislature, which also happened to be the seventh Anniversary of the Rebirth of Ganienkeh. The resolution passed by a vote of 8-2. At this meeting there were many people who spoke in the defense of Ganienkeh.
Then, one year later the Legislature passed yet another virtually identical resolution against Ganienkeh. After the original resolution was passed in 1981 it was found that the lease was legal and the Legislature had no legal authority against the lease.
The resolution again passed with many people speaking against Ganienkeh, but no one spoke in the defense of Ganienkeh. The result of the vote was 8-2. All this opposition came about because the New York State government neglected to consult the residents of Clinton County until it was a fait accompli that Ganienkeh would be moved from Moss Lake to Miner Lake.
"One thing was really cool the way I remember it," recalls Judy Delaronde. "Louis [Hall] asked me to drive him to Plattsburgh. [Mario} Cuomo was making a stop. He was running for Governor, it was his first run. He was landing at the airport in Plattsburgh, so Louis said ‘Let’s go, I would like to wish him good luck."
"Oh, I said ‘He probably won’t even notice us, there will be a big crush of people.’ And sure enough, all the political big wigs of the Democratic Party were all in the front. But Louis had on his black hat. We were right against the wall, there was nowhere else to go, we were as far back as you can be. And when Cuomo came off the place he just made them open a path and went right for Louis. He was the first person he greeted. He shook his hand and Louis said, ‘The People of Ganienkeh sent me to wish you all the best in your campaign.’"
"I was impressed, because he must have really respected Louis. They were on opposite sides, but there was a lot of respect there," stated Delaronde.
After Ganienkeh survived the numerous attacks by the Clinton County Legislature, the community began to prosper.
The community opened up the Ganienkeh Territorial Bingo, the Ganienkeh Wholistic Center, a saw mill, a gas station and they are even herding cattle and buffalo. The community of Ganienkeh even floors a lacrosse team in the Iroquois Lacrosse Association (ILA) called the Gunners.
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