Grand Island land claim decision is appealed

News Staff Reporter

The Seneca Nation of Indians has filed a formal notice that it plans to appeal a federal judge's ruling against it in the Grand Island land claim case.

A one-page notice of appeal was filed by two attorneys for the Senecas, court officials said Friday. The notice claimed that District Judge Richard J. Arcara was mistaken when he ruled in June that the Senecas have no legal right to ownership of Grand Island, Cayuga Island, Bird Island and other Niagara River islands.

"We disagree with Judge Arcara on a number of points," said attorney Jeanne S. Whiteing of Boulder, Colo., who filed the notice with co-counsel Arlinda Locklear.

"We're certainly hopeful of winning the appeal. We wouldn't file it if we didn't think we had a chance."

Whiteing predicted that litigation of the appeal will take at least 18 months.

Seneca Nation officials claim that the Senecas are the rightful owners of Grand Island and about 40 other smaller islands in the Niagara River. The Senecas claim New York State illegally purchased the islands from the tribe in a land deal in 1815.

In a decision of major importance to Senecas and more than 18,000 Grand Island residents, Arcara ruled June 21 that the state has been the legal owner of the islands since the American Revolution.

The judge concluded that there is no archaeological evidence that the Senecas ever set foot on Grand Island.

Seneca officials announced plans to appeal the 215-page Arcara ruling immediately after it was announced last month.

Whiteing said the Senecas disagree with "certain parts" of Arcara's historical research, and also disagree with his findings on a number of treaties signed by the tribe.