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Regional News

Gas station remains focal point of Cayuga Nation leadership feud

Ryan Delaney
Sam George, a sachem chief of the Cayuga Nation and member of the Unity Council. (file photo)

A gas station owned by the Cayuga Nation along Cayuga Lake is in different hands and back open as a fight over control of nation enterprises continues.

Supporters of Clint Halftown, the man who claims to be the rightful federal representative of the nation, re-took the Union Springs Lakeside Trading post early Monday morning.

The Unity Council, the group that says it's in charge under nation law, reported 75 people overran the store and injured its supporters "peacefully" occupying the building.

Those supporters of the Unity Council had been inside the store since September, when there were several public confrontations outside the business over who would manage it.

The Unity Council maintains control of a second gas station on the other side of the lake. 

The supporters of Halftown Monday morning "acted in support of our efforts to remove the Unity Council vigilantes and profiteers from our property," said Tim Twoguns, a deputy of Mr. Halftown, in a statement.

Similar episodes have taken place intermittently since May, when the decade-old leadership dispute in the Cayuga flared up. Halftown says he's still in charge of the nation, but those in the Unity Council claim they removed him years ago. The dispute is pending before the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

With control of the gas stations - and other businesses like a trucking company and gambling hall - comes control of revenue and nation finances. Both sides say they have the best interests of the nation at heart and have the support of the majority.

"Reopening this store is important to the Nation’s economic viability and its ability to continue funding Nation programs for members," Mr. Halftown is quoted as saying in a release.

"It is our responsibility as leaders to continue to work for our people, even in the face of this kind of lawlessness," countered Sam George of the Unity Council in their own release.

Local and state police have been called to several of the disputes over recent months, but have been reluctant at time to get too involved.