Constant Fighting Between State, Seneca Nation Needs To End

It’s time for a compromise between New York state and the Seneca Nation of Indians in the ongoing impasse over needed work to the state Thruway between Exit 57A in Eden/Angola and Exit 58 in Silver Creek.

Both the state and the Seneca Nation say they are open to discussions or working on an agreement. Of course, that sounds a lot better than both sides telling the public that the Thruway isn’t getting fixed any time soon.

The Senecas have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Buffalo demanding the state compensate the nation for use of the 300 acres of Seneca Nation land upon which the Thruway is built, with the nation alleging its leaders were pressured for an easement to build the Thruway in 1954 and that required federal approvals that weren’t pursued by the state in the 1950s. As if that wasn’t enough, the state and the Seneca Nation are at odds, again, over the roughly $110 million in revenue from Seneca Nation casinos that hasn’t been paid for the last 13 months. The state says the Seneca Nation is violating the gambling compact between the two entities while the Seneca Nation says the payments weren’t required after the 14th year of the agreement. There have been longstanding disagreements over taxation of cigarettes and goods sold on tribal lands to non-Native Americans.

No one should expect these issues to be resolved quickly, but it is reasonable for travelers to expect that an agreement should be reached to allow the horrible three miles of road between Eden and Silver Creek to be milled and repaved. If this stalemate continues, it is increasingly likely there will be an accident caused by the deteriorating condition of the Thruway. That will only increase the tension between the state and the Seneca Nation.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Seneca President Todd Gates should meet and arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement. New York state recently beefed up its set-asides for state contracts through the minority and women-owned enterprise program, so it should have no problem understanding why the Seneca Nation would expect that the state would have to follow the nation’s Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance that stipulates Seneca Nation members perform at least 51 percent of large capital improvement projects. Likewise, the state should realize that it will have to pay the Senecas a fair price for staging areas for equipment used on the project.

Fair is fair, after all.

Likewise, the Seneca Nation should arrive at a fair price for staging. Other issues should be set aside for the good of both the Senecas and the traveling public.

The constant fighting between New York state and the Seneca Nation of Indians needs to come to an end. Perhaps the sides coming to an agreement over work on the state Thruway can be the start of a better relationship.

Both sides say they are willing to talk. Prove it.