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Land claim settlement reached in Madison County with Wisconsin Indian tribe

By PAT BAILEY

WAMPSVILLE, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Stockbridge-Munsee Community of the Mohican Nation has agreed to give up 23,000 acres of land in the Town of Stockbridge and in parts of Oneida County in exchange for 330 acres of land in Sullivan County.

The tribe plans to build a casino in the Sullivan County Town of Thompson.

In 2002, the New York State Legislature approved three casinos in the Catskills for Indian Tribes. The Wisconsin-based Stockbridge-Munsee Community was interested in building a casino dating back to 2001.

Since that time, the tribe has been clearing hurdles to build the projected "world class casino and resort."

The agreement signed Monday means the tribe will get the land for the casino and in exchange will not try to put Madison County land back into trust. If the tribe acquires any future land in Madison County, they will be subject to state and local taxes, according to the compact drawn up by the Madison County Board of Supervisors.

New York State Governor David Paterson was part of Monday's announcement, signing legislation to make it possible.

"This will settle really what has been 24 years of conflict," said Governor Paterson."I know I'm going to be asked before I leave here, why didn't we do it with this one, why didn't you do it with that one. This one and that one did not come forward. The Stockbridge-Munsees did."

Paterson was asked about those other tribes, including the Oneida Indian Nation.

Madison County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Becker said the Oneidas, who have claimed land in his county, have not yet reached out to make a deal. Becker says the county, however, has.

"We have been open, willing and sent proposals over to them that they have scoffed at," Becker said. "We're still willing to be a partner with the Oneidas, to sit down, negotiate, and talk."

Oneida Indian Nation Spokesman Mark Emery says the nation is shocked the State of New York would allow an outside tribe to build a casino in the state.

"The idea that the State was settling a Stockbridge land claim is laughable, as the claim relates to Oneida Nation homelands," said Emery. "Nobody honestly believes the Stockbridge ever had a legitimate claim here."

The agreement signed Monday still needs to be approved by the Secretary of the Interior in Washington. Paterson says he believes it will be.

"The deal made by Governor Paterson and Madison County leadership with the Stockbridge-Munsee and announced today was shrouded in secrecy," Emery said. "When every other tribal compact in New York state was negotiated, it was done so in sunshine, transparency and in full public view. The same is true with respect with each of the racinos. Yet, during the 11th hour of this administration, under the cover of darkness, and when the public could not see what he was doing, Governor Paterson slipped in this proposed sham settlement of a sham land claim by an out of state tribe. Doing this "deal" with the Stockbridge Munsee through backroom tactics that avoid public comment and scrutiny is not right. Not only is it the same old politics that New Yorkers voted to change, it is very suspicious. Rather than supporting the deal with the Stockbridge Munsee, the Attorney General should be investigating it. Local and state leadership should be on notice that the Nation will be seriously involved in opposing this deal at all levels."

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