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Cayuga Indian Nation destroys buildings near Seneca Falls in dispute with rival faction

Vaughn Golden
One of several buildings destroyed early Saturday morning on Rt. 89 near Seneca Falls

Authorities from the Cayuga Indian Nation partially demolished several buildings Saturday, raising tensions between the tribe’s rival factions and prompting the Seneca County Board of Supervisors to call on federal authorities to get involved.

Eight buildings along Route 89 south of Seneca Falls were partially demolished and taped off by Cayuga Nation police, who remained on the scene into Sunday. In a public statement, the nation said it was reclaiming the buildings which were part of a dispute from 2014. They included a convenience store, school, daycare and cannery.

"The Cayuga Nation also chose today to demolish certain buildings that it owned on these properties,” the statement read. “It did so to eliminate certain public safety issues, and it does not want these buildings to become a target for any further friction in the community going forward,"

The buildings had been claimed by a group opposed to Clint Halftown, who leads the Cayuga Nation council. Representatives of that group protested on the site Sunday before attending as special meeting by the Seneca County Board of Supervisors to discuss the matter later in the day.

"I've been able to watch this thing grow and unfortunately come to the head that it's come to and explode in such a destructive way," Leanna Young, a spokesperson for the group, who call themselves the "traditional community" told WRVO.

Credit Vaughn Golden / WRVO News
One of several buildings destroyed early Saturday morning on Rt. 89 near Seneca Falls

The board is limited in what it can do in the situation due to the sovereignty of the nation, but it passed motions to encourage the federal government to get involved. This included asking the U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of New York to launch an investigation; to ask Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning), and Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to freeze grant money recently allocated to the tribe, and calling for the U.S. Marshals to temporarily police the nation.

"I would love to see Clint come to us and talk with us," Young said when asked how she would like to see this resolved. "And I would love to see us come and sit down and figure out a way where we can coexist and come to an agreement somehow where we can coexist peacefully."

The dispute between the factions has been ongoing for several years. Representation for Halftown wasn’t present at the meeting.