Oneida County Executive
County Office Building
800 Park Avenue
Utica, New York 13501
Fax (315) 798-2390
County Office Building
N. Court Street
Wampsville, New York 13163-0635
For Immediate Release February 21, 2020
Eannace, DiVeronica Deplore Lawsuit
Oneida County Executive Ralph J. Eannace, Jr. and Madison County Board of Supervisors Chairman Rocco J. DiVeronica today criticized lawsuits filed by the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin against private land owners in the Oneida Indian land claim area of Oneida and Madison counties.
"This appears to us as nothing more than a deplorable attempt to hold the citizens of Oneida and Madison counties hostage for ransom in the form of a casino in the Catskills," Eannace said. "It is a great disappointment that the Wisconsin Tribe has rejected the path of negotiations and seeks to prolong the uncertainty affecting our region."
"The framework for a settlement would begin a new era of cooperation and progress based on working together for the common good," said DiVeronica. "All this lawsuit does is focus on the demands of one group – the Wisconsin Oneidas – to the exclusion of those who have to live with this issue every day and want a speedy and cooperative resolution."
Eannace noted that historically, the Wisconsin Tribe had told negotiators of the Oneida Indian Nation of New York, New York State and Oneida and Madison counties that New York’s governments and Indian tribe needed to work out an agreement to settle the local issues in the land claim and other issues surrounding the Oneidas. "We did so, as shown by the historic framework announced last week," Eannace said. "At a time when we should be moving forward to implement this framework, this lawsuit tries to drag us backward."
Eannace said that during negotiation sessions with court-appointed Settlement Master Dean Ronald J. Riccio in 2000, the three Oneida tribes (New York, Wisconsin and Thames Valley, Ontario, Canada), met without the counties or the State present to divide a proposed $500 million payment from the state and federal governments.
Nothing affecting the amount that would be received by the Wisconsin Tribe changed between that time and agreement on the framework announced last week, Eannace said.
"If the Wisconsin Oneida have legitimate issues to discuss, they are welcome to rejoin us at the negotiating table, where we all belong, and turn away from the destructive path they have chosen of trying to derail these negotiations," Eannace said.
The State, the Counties, and the Oneida Indian Nation of New York have agreed to stand together to defend against these new threatened actions. On Saturday, Gov. Pataki promised that the State will use all legal means at its disposal to have any new claims dismissed out-of-hand. In the unlikely event the lawsuits are permitted by the Federal Court to proceed, the governor promised the State will fully defend in Court any landowners sued by the Oneida Wisconsin Tribe, and the State will indemnify any landowner who suffers court imposed damages as a result of these new lawsuits.