BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Members of the traditional Cayuga Nation are working to reacquire a farm foreclosed on by Cayuga County. Leaders say the SHARE farm was the first plot the nation purchased in its original territory after centuries removed from their land.
A fundraiser for the Cayuga SHARE Farm raised nearly $144,000 as of Monday, exceeding its goal of $130,000. The money will be used to pay back 15 years of unpaid taxes requested by the county.
The farm was first established in 2005, when white allies of the nation’s traditional chiefs and clan mothers paid the mortgage for the 70-acre property. It sits near the Great Gully, a sacred indigenous site where members of the Cayuga Nation hid from the Continental Army during the 1779 Sullivan-Clinton campaign.
“That was the beginning of the conscious efforts to remove the Cayuga people from their homeland,” said Joe Heath, the legal counsel for the traditional Cayuga chiefs and clan mothers.
Before the SHARE farm was founded, the Cayuga Nation was the only one of the six Haudenosaunee, also known as Iroquois, nations without land. The Onondaga Nation then loaned the Cayuga money to purchase back the land from their white allies.
Cayuga County foreclosed on the property in April 2019, citing unpaid taxes. As of this month, the county has not auctioned off the land or dispossessed the farm’s owners of the land.
Heath said reacquiring the farm again would be healing for the diasporic nation.
“Healing for the Cayuga people to come back to their land and have some foothold there,” Heath said, “But also, very importantly, healing between the Cayuga people and their non-Indigenous neighbors.”
The traditional leaders Heath represents are separate from the faction led by Clint Halftown, who is recognized as the leader of the Cayuga Nation by the U.S government.
Each year, the SHARE farm holds a peach tree planting ceremony, inviting the other nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and white neighbors to participate. Peach trees symbolize the orchards colonial soldiers cut down during the Sullivan-Clinton campaign at the direction of General George Washington. He sent part of the Continental Army to destroy Cayuga and Seneca Nation villages and food supplies.
Heath said losing land, both then and now, damages the nation’s culture and hampers their ability to continue.
“As we have gone through the last year of understanding about systematic racism and historic trauma, it’s time for us to address these historic harms within New York State and within Haudenosaunee territory,” Heath said.
Repurchasing the farm would be a step toward restoration and education, for both the nation and its neighbors.
Once the money from the fundraiser is transferred to the nation, the Cayuga County legislature is expected to vote on whether or not to accept it as payment for the farm.