AKWESASNE – The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe has launched a new website – www.ResolveTheBoundary.com – to help the community understand a proposed settlement to boundary discussions that stretch back more than three decades.
“Questions related to the status of our boundary have lingered for 32 years – that’s a lifetime for many of our people,” said Chief Beverly Cook of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council. “Throughout that entire time, there have been rumors and speculation about what resolving this issue would mean for the Tribe and for our neighbors in Franklin County and St. Lawrence County. We’ve created a resource that will help people see and understand the facts behind a proposed settlement.”
The website includes maps, an outline of the agreement, and statements of the economic development and impact the tribe has had.
The launch of the website comes on the heels of an historic moment in the ongoing boundary discussions. Last week, leaders from the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council and St. Lawrence County met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign a memorandum of understand (MOU) outlining terms set down by the tribe, the county and New York State of the settlement.
In a press release from the tribe describing the MOU, a final settlement agreement would permit the tribe to acquire, only from willing sellers, identified lands in St. Lawrence County and return them to the tribe’s territory. Local governments will receive payments from New York State covering any lost property taxes for the lands the tribe is able to acquire. St. Lawrence County will also receive one-time payments of $2 million and $1.5 from the state and the tribe as well as annual payments of $4 million from the state to be paid in perpetuity. The funds would be unrestricted, allowing the county to use them as it sees fit. The agreement also clarifies matters related to jurisdiction and building codes.
The lands in St. Lawrence County which the tribe may acquire on the open market include areas in the Town of Brasher and the Town of Massena.
“The MOU with St. Lawrence County is an important first step,” Chief Paul Thompson said. “Now, we need our friends and neighbors from Franklin County to work with us, as the leaders of St. Lawrence County have, in this same spirit of cooperation. While we are not yet at the finish line, last week’s announcement is proof that we can move forward together. After 32 years, it’s time.”
A complete settlement cannot be enacted without support and sign-on from Franklin County, followed by local, state and congressional approval.
“Our Tribe’s recent history has been marked by business growth and success,” said Chief Ron LaFrance. “The benefits of our success have permeated the economy of the entire North Country. Finalizing a settlement of our boundary matters can also yield important benefits for our tribe and for our neighbors for generations to come.”
“Under the MOU terms, we will have the ability to ensure the education of our young people, less expensive power and further, we achieve protection for landowners that have already lost their title for non-payment of taxes,” said Chief Cook. “Under a final agreement, this returns rightful ownership.”
The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is the elected government of the Saint Regis Mohawk Reservation recognized by the U.S. federal government.