Ruling may threaten Seneca's Grand Island claim


   A Seneca Nation lawyer is concerned that a federal appeals court decision will destroy any chance the nation has of winning its Grand Island land claim. The Senecas and other tribes in the state are upset with a ruling issued Tuesday by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled that the Cayuga Indians are not entitled to $248 million that was awarded to them by a lower court in a Central New York land claim case.
   Attorney Joseph F. Crangle said late Thursday he fears that the ruling will hurt the Senecas' continuing Grand Island land claim. The Senecas have already lost their case before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara and the Second Circuit, but Crangle would like the appeals court to conduct a further review.
   By a 2-1 vote, a panel of judges ruled that the land claim should be dismissed because so much time has passed since the Cayugas lived on the land, and the tribe waited too long to seek relief. The court also said it recognized the "long-standing, distinctly non-Indian character of the area and its inhabitants."
   Gov. George E. Pataki has called the ruling "a tremendous victory for the property owners and taxpayers of Central New York."
   "I am deeply troubled by Gov. Pataki's response to this decision," said Barry E. Snyder Sr., Seneca Nations president. "To term it "a tremendous victory for property owners and taxpayers' of the area suggests that the Cayugas and Indian nations elsewhere in the state are engaging in actions that seek to harm our non-Indian neighbors. Nothing could be further from the truth."
   Snyder said the Seneca Nation will continue to support the Cayugas and other Indian nations seeking to recover ancestral lands.