Saturday, May 10, 2003

Cayugas Change Stance on Casinos

the new york times

OWANDA, N.Y. May 8 — For years, the Cayugas wanted no part of gambling fever. As the Senecas, the Oneidas and the Mohawks began earning millions from casinos, the Cayugas held to the old rules of consensus and unanimity. If even one of the five clan mothers opposed it, it could not happen.

"I suggested it three years ago, and it was `no, no, no!' " said Frank Bonamie, a member of the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York. He said that tribal leaders felt that gambling was contrary to the spiritual tradition of the nation.

But in a reversal that has angered some tribe members and puzzled others, the views of at least some members have changed. And last month, the Cayugas signed an agreement with a casino promoter, Empire Resorts Inc. (formerly Alpha Hospitality), to sponsor a $500 million casino in the Catskills.

Although the plan still faces considerable obstacles, the casino could eventually be one of three the state wants to see built in the area.

The Cayugas' change of position on casino gambling illustrated how the federally granted right to sponsor gambling has, even for the most reluctant tribes, made it something close to an economic imperative to embrace casinos.

"We all have personal feelings about it," said Tim Twoguns, a leader of one of the tribe's five clans. "But as a people, we have to look at the future in the long run, or we may not exist anymore."

The Cayugas have only about 475 members, Mr. Twoguns said, a fraction of the 8,000 or so Cayugas who ruled the northern Finger Lakes region when the first white settlers arrived. And they are the only one of seven federally recognized tribes in New York without a reservation.

So as the Cayugas held to their old beliefs, other tribes, notably the Senecas, have embraced casino projects and have begun investing in businesses like tax-free gasoline and tobacco sales throughout western New York.

The roads from Salamanca — one of the gateways to the Seneca reservation — to Buffalo show evidence of the tribe's aggressive entrepreneurialism. There is a Seneca Gas-Fuel next to the Seneca Restaurant off the New York State Thruway exit at Hamburg. There are Seneca convenience stores, libraries, health clinics and cultural centers, and in the center of the city of Niagara Falls, the four-month-old Seneca Niagara Casino, which has started dispensing $500 monthly stipends to tribe members. Before too long, the tribe plans to have two new hotels at Niagara Falls, plus casinos in Buffalo and on the Pennsylvania border.

By embracing casinos early and vigorously, the Senacas have also, under an agreement with the state, closed off western New York to the Cayugas and other tribes, producing a free-for-all among other tribes to fill the three Catskills casinos the Legislature has authorized.

Without a reservation, the Cayugas' tangible proof of their status as a nation until recently came mainly in the form of $44 and about a yard of unbleached muslin treaty cloth, which each member of the tribe receives annually from the state of New York as payment for a land purchase more than 200 years ago.

"We're lucky that we've existed this long without land," said Clint Halftown, who is directing the tribe's new business ventures.

As a sign of the Cayugas' new business interest, the tribe recently borrowed $1.3 million from the Oneida Nation, operators of the Turning Stone casino in Verona, to buy its first business, a gas station and car wash in the village of Union Springs on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake.


it Has Come To This: Indians *must* have a casino! the old ways will die, the ways of the shaman do nothing for welfare of the new generation of the tribe, anymore!
the Boys will go off and learn all about HIP_HOP and the anger-rants, Join the [white] human race!
somthin dooornt sound or feel Right, here!!