By: Michael Virtanen
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe has reached agreement with the state and St. Lawrence County to buy land from willing sellers in northern New York to add to its territory, officials say.
A memorandum signed Wednesday outlines a final settlement that Chief Beverly Cook of the Tribal Council says the tribe has been working toward for 32 years, building on the work of past leaders.
“We remain committed to a negotiated settlement that benefits our Mohawk people and our neighbors,” she said.
The agreement would allow the purchase of about 3,440 acres in the town of Brasher and about 1,360 acres in the town of Massena to return the properties to the tribe’s territory along the Canadian border. In exchange, municipalities would get payments from the state covering lost property taxes.
The county would get $2 million from the state and $1.5 million from the tribe, as well as $4 million more annually from the state’s share of casino revenues. The tribe’s reservation casino under a state compact already makes estimated annual payments, including about $1.45 million for the county and $725,000 each for Brasher and Massena, the tribe said.
“For decades, the state and the Mohawks were at a stalemate,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “We can now look forward to years of mutual respect and cooperation.”
Jon Putney, who chairs the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators, said the agreement is good for the county and towns.
“After years of discord, we have the framework that protects the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s gaming exclusivity and provides millions of dollars to our local governments and school districts,” he said.
Last year, tribal leaders and Cuomo signed an agreement to ensure the Mohawks keep their exclusive casino territory in northern New York while paying the state $30 million in gambling proceeds that had been withheld. That accord also opened the door to negotiations with the state and counties over Mohawk land claims.
The state agreed to remove the eight-county region from the Cuomo administration’s proposal for three new upstate New York casino resorts, while the tribe agreed to resume paying 25 percent of future gambling revenues to the state, with shares of that again going to Franklin and St. Lawrence counties.