Tribe Stops Work on Bingo Hall

Mon August 25, 2003 - National Edition

AURELIUS (AP) The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma has halted construction of its $25-million bingo hall until a federal judge can decide whether the tribe must have local approval for the project.

The tribe filed a “notice of removal” in U.S. District Court in Syracuse Aug. 12, a legal maneuver that canceled a show-cause hearing scheduled in the state Supreme Court in Cayuga County.

“It now becomes a federal case,” David Cherubin, an attorney representing the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe, told The Post-Standard of Syracuse.

The tribe had defied a stop-work order obtained by Town of Aurelius officials and continued work on building a temporary bingo hall at the 229-acre site 30 mi. west of Syracuse. The stop-work order was issued Friday, Aug. 8, and served on the tribe the following Monday.

The Seneca-Cayugas expect to open the 300-seat temporary bingo hall by late September. The permanent facility is scheduled to open by Memorial Day.

The Seneca-Cayugas bought the parcel last November and claim it is sovereign territory that is not subject to local or state laws because it lies within the tribe’s land claim.

A federal district judge previously ruled that New York state illegally acquired 64,027 acres of Cayuga ancestral lands in Seneca and Cayuga counties, including the tract in Aurelius. In 2001, the tribe and Cayuga Indian Nation of New York were awarded $247.9 million in damages and interest. Both the decision and the judgment are under appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court.

A hearing is scheduled for Sept. 8 before U.S. District Judge Neal McCurn, who will consider the tribe’s request for a temporary injunction to block the town and county from stopping the bingo hall project.