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The Cayuga Indian Nation will have to continue to work out leadership fight on its own

Ryan Delaney
Sam George, a member of the Unity Council, which claims to be rightful leaders of the Cayuga Nation, seen last year.

The Cayuga Indian Nation will have to continue to sort out a leadership dispute on its own, as the federal government has declined to make a ruling.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has decided that on an interim basis, it will continue to recognize the 2006 leadership structure of the Cayuga, which places Clint Halftown as the federal representative for the nation.

Some of the 2006 leadership group has since broken off and formed a self-proclaimed Unity Council. They claim Halftown has been removed from power through traditional tribal law and Sam George and William Jacobs are the new leaders.

Whoever is representative controls the allocation of federal funding given to the nation. In May, the BIA asked both sides to present evidence that they’re rightfully in charge of Cayuga affairs. The BIA says it’s continuing to recognize Halftown to give the two sides more time to sort out control on their own.

The BIA’s decision allows it to release funds to the nation that have been tied up, but is declining for now to make a formal ruling on tribal law. Acting BIA Eastern Region Director Tammie Poitra writes in her decision:

The Region has refrained from making any recognition decision until now in hopes that this dispute would be resolved by the Nation. The Region has determined, however, that it can wait no longer to fulfill BIA's obligation to release funds under the Community Services Contract, and therefore must issue an interim recognition of a governing body for the Nation so that the Nation's designees may sign contract modifications adding funds for this fiscal year and draw down the funds provided.

The prolonged leadership conflict has turned violent at times as supporters of each side have fought over control of nation-run businesses along Cayuga Lake.

In a statement, Halftown said he's willing to put differences aside and work with members of the Unity Council.