If the U.S. Department of the Interior's land-into-trust ruling issued Tuesday stands, the Oneida Indian Nation would have more than 13,000 acres to govern in western Oneida County and northeastern Madison County.
The implications are enormous, promising a profound political, economic and social impact on the future of both the Oneidas and the surrounding local community.
Experts on Native American issues said Tuesday they didn't know exactly how the Interior Department's decision would affect this region, but they agreed it would be a plus for the tribe and for its autonomy.
“It confirms that it is their undisputed homeland, because it frees them from any claim to municipal taxation and regulations,” said Robert Batson, government lawyer in residence at Albany Law School.
Predictably, the politicians that have continually bungled the situation have been busy issuing press releases vowing to fight, fight, fight the decision. Nevermind that they've had years, in some cases decades, to resolve it on their own. No, they're going to attempt to drag out the process even further with an endless series of lawsuits designed to assert their rightful claim to the money generated by the Nation's businesses.
They're also studiously avoiding stating the obvious: they were pwned, and pwned hard, by the Oneida Indian Nation.
As for the claims that this is somehow "costing" the taxpayers money, a politically motivated smear that stops just short of accusing the OIN of being stereotypical "thieving injuns", it's bunk. From the Department of the Interior's Record of Decision, page 22:
In general, the Nation has not paid taxes on its lands since re-acquiring them beginning in 1987 under the assumption that it had could assert tribal tax immunity over those lands. After the Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling in City of Sherrill that the Nation cannot unilaterally assert tribal tax immunity as a matter of Federal law, disputes persist over whether the Nation owes taxes as a matter of State law.3 The Nation has, however, recognized that it uses State and local government services, and has therefore made voluntary payments through service agreements to defray the costs of such services. These payments, in combination with other direct and indirect contributions that the Nation has made to the State and local governments, more than offset the alleged annual loss of revenue resulting from the Nation’s non-payment of real property taxes. Under agreements reached with the Cities of Sherrill and Oneida after the City of Sherrill decision, the Nation makes payments to cover the full amounts of the taxes levied by the Cities.
And from page 23:
The Final EIS analyzed the baseline 2005 economic conditions by comparing the Nation’s use of State and local government services to its positive economic contributions. In 2005, the revenues provided directly and indirectly by the Nation to the State and local governments (including agreements and employee and multiplier taxes) totaled approximately $24.29 million. The Nation’s costs to New York State and local governments for services attributed to the Nation totaled approximately $7.54 million. Thus, the Nation provided a net positive contribution of $16.76 million to the New York State and local governments.
As for the legal fight to seize the Oneida's treasure...well, good luck with that. It's likely to cost millions of dollars and go on for at least another decade, but the political "leadership" of central New York, and the state at large, will at least be able to claim they did something. Since they've consistently refused to actually negotiate, instead relying on a maniacal "Kneel before Zod!" approach, it's about the only option they have left.