With the deadline expired for filing an appeal in a lawsuit related to the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York leadership dispute, the faction led by Clint Halftown on Wednesday said the fight is officially over.
The nation members who have opposed Halftown, however, said that's not an accurate portrayal of the lawsuit's impact.
A March 12 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington dismissed an effort to overturn a U.S. Department of Interior determination about who is in charge of the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York. Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the interior department's Bureau of Indian Affairs properly recognized Halftown and his council as the nation's leaders in a December 2016 determination. That BIA ruling was meant to end a longstanding dispute between Halftown, his followers and a group of chiefs and clan mothers formerly known as the Unity Council, but the council filed a lawsuit challenging that ruling.
The plaintiffs in that case decided not to file an appeal of Kollar-Kotelly's decision.
"As a result, the decision is final (and) the litigation is over," a press release from Halftown's group said Wednesday. "The Court’s approval of the Council chosen by will of the Nation’s citizens — Clint Halftown, Tim Twoguns, Gary Wheeler, Donald Jimerson, and Mike Barringer — confirms it is the only rightful governing body of the Cayuga Nation."
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Halftown's council said it will "move swiftly on all fronts to restore order to the Nation by regaining possession of the properties and businesses that were wrongfully and forcibly seized from the Nation more than four years ago and to pursue compensation from those who acted without authority."
Amid the dispute in recent years, the two sides had each taken control of operations of different Cayuga Nation businesses, with Halftown's group mostly running companies in Union Springs in Cayuga County and the other side operating Seneca County sites.
In response to Halftown's declaration on Wednesday, an attorney representing Cayuga Nation chiefs and clan mothers said the Washington lawsuit related to a narrowly focused question of who can administer federal contracts with the U.S. government.
"To this day, Mr. Halftown refuses to accept the authority of the Nation's Clan Mothers, whose recognition by the Federal government has never been questioned," said lawyer Alex Page of Berkey Williams LLP in Washington. "Cayuga citizens remain deeply divided and there is strong support for the traditional leaders, whose authority is grounded in the Great Law of Peace. Only the Nation and its citizens, not any outside court or government, can resolve this ongoing internal governmental dispute. Although the Nation's traditional leadership has chosen to put aside the federal contracting challenge, it continues to work peacefully with Nation citizens to maintain governmental authority at Cayuga consistent with Cayuga law."