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St. Regis Mohawk tribe suing Franklin County

August 13, 2009
By JESSICA COLLIER, Enterprise Staff Writer

MALONE - Franklin County and Gov. David Paterson are being sued in federal court by the St. Regis Mohawk tribe because, the tribe says, they are exercising illegal jurisdiction over it.

"For the county to attempt to impose property taxes, building codes, business law within any reservation is prohibited by federal law," said David Staddon, director of public information for the tribe.

The piece of land at issue is the Hogansburg Triangle, which the state and county have long considered to be outside of the reservation, according to court papers.

"The state and county have sought to vigorously enforce their civil laws against the Tribe and its members who live and work in the Hogansburg Triangle," reads the complaint.

It states that Franklin County has claimed the authority to impose real property taxes on all land owned by the Tribe or tribal members within the triangle, local governments in the county have attempted to apply local building codes there, and the state has actively imposed licensing laws on business there.

The tribe, however, believes the triangle remains a part of the reservation and has been since a treaty was passed in 1796 designating the land to the Mohawks, Staddon said. It would take an act of Congress to alter those boundaries, and such an act has never been passed, he said.

Staddon said the tribe wants a judge to declare that the boundaries were never changed, so the Hogansburg Triangle remains a part of the Akwasasne reservation. This would mean the state and county would not have jurisdiction over the land; it would only be subject to federal jurisdiction.

County Attorney Jonathan Miller said he was not aware of the suit Tuesday, and did not respond to a phone message left for him Wednesday.



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