Cayuga Indian Nation Dispute Leads To Brawl

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Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio

Charles Bowman, a white supporter of the traditional Cayuga leaders, was taken into custody by the Cayuga Nation Police. February 29, 2020. (Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio)

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – A fight over the leadership of the Cayuga Indian Nation in Seneca Falls, New York led arrests on Saturday.

Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio

Charles Bowman, a white supporter of the traditional Cayuga leaders, was taken into custody by the Cayuga Nation Police. February 29, 2020. (Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio)

A brawl erupted shortly after a press conference held on Saturday by the seven traditional leaders of the Cayuga Nation and their supporters from other leaders of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

The traditional leaders said they want to have peace and reconciliation of all Cayuga people. When the fighting started some leaders and other supporters walked into the brawl and called for it to stop.

The fighting was between several dozen people. Some were supporters of the traditional Cayuga leaders. The others wore uniforms labeled Cayuga Nation Police.

Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio

Chief Roger Silversmith of the Cayuga Snipe Clan (L) listens as Donna Silversmith of the Cayuga Snipe Clan speaks at a press conference, February 29, 2020. (Photo: Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio)

Members of the police used whip sticks and pepper spray to force the other group off of the property where the remains of the destroyed buildings stood.

The dispute comes from a years-long conflict between traditional Cayuga leaders and those recognized by the U.S government.

The cause of Saturday’s conflict goes back over a decade and involves the site of several buildings.

A week earlier, Clint Halftown, the leader of the federally-recognized Cayuga Nation Council ordered the late-night takeover and demolition of a dozen buildings under the control of the traditionalist Unity Council. They included a schoolhouse and longhouse used for traditional ceremonies.

That leader said it was done to reclaim property stolen from the Cayuga Nation.

The traditional leaders called the destruction of the buildings “acts of terrorism” and “treason” against the Cayuga Nation.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer has called on the Justice and Interior departments to investigate the destruction of the buildings.