Documents made available to the Niagara Falls Reporter this week show that those in charge of investing millions of dollars rightfully belonging to the Tuscarora Nation in mutual funds invested heavily in gambling and liquor.
It's ironic, because Neil Patterson, Neil Patterson Jr. and Leo Henry -- who have control of the $100 million Power Authority settlement along with just about every dime the Tuscarora have managed to put together over the past 150 years -- are also active in the Tuscarora Temperance Society and its parent organization, the Baptist church.
Both the Temperance Society and the church oppose gambling, drinking and even dancing, yet the tribe has more than $2 million invested in a securities trust set up by Franklin Templeton Investments, records show.
The Pattersons and Henry have put the Tuscarora money into stakes at MotorCity Casino, the Las Vegas Sands, Harrah's, MGM Resorts International, Starwood Resorts, the Venetian Macau, Station Casinos, Pinnacle Entertainment and the Shingle Springs Tribal Gaming Authority, run by an obscure band of Native Americans known as the Miwok in California.
All of the companies operate casinos, and a significant portion of their income is derived from liquored up suckers who drop their money at the tables then rent a room to sleep it off. The Tuscarora Temperance Society, which has been in existence since 1830, specifically forbids such behavior.
"Whereas, present and past occurrences clearly prove that intemperance is a great and destructive evil," reads the society's charter. "That we, the chiefs and warriors of the Tuscarora Nation, will do all in our power to arrest its progress, both in this village and elsewhere."
Ron Billings, a respected Tuscarora activist who remembers the protests against the New York State Power Authority in the early 1960s, has incurred the wrath of Henry and the Pattersons, who have denied him the right to have electric power at his house since 1994.
"Just being a Tuscarora, I stand up for my own rights and that means everybody's rights," he said. "Our future has been decided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Atlanta. They picked our leadership, and the people they picked won't even appear in public without police backup."
Both Billings and Renee Henry -- who lives on the Six Nations Reservation in Ontario -- are members of the Deer Clan, one of the seven Tuscarora clans recognized for the past 200 years. Yet both have had trouble getting their Native American identification paper, known informally as a "red card," issued with the correct clan attribution. Billings' card is stamped with an "x" in the space provided for clan affiliation and Henry's request for Deer Clan attribution has been bluntly refused.
The red card is important because it allows Native Americans to travel unencumbered throughout all of North America, and also provides the tax-exempt status granted when the federal government negotiated treaties with the various tribes.
The Tuscarora Nation has been embroiled in controversy over the legitimacy of the tribal leadership since April 30, when a Condolence Ceremony -- an Iroquoian ritual at which chiefs are elevated -- was held at the Tonawanda Seneca Reservation.
Neil Patterson Sr. and his son, Neil Patterson Jr., put themselves forward for chiefdom, but were denied after protests by several Tuscarora Clan Mothers, including Linda Hill of the Bear Clan and Lena Rickard of the Turtle Clan.
"The whole Nation should give thanks to the Clan Mothers who prevented this thing from happening," Billings said.
The Pattersons claim membership in the "White Bear" and "Sand Turtle" clans, illegitimate groups created as recently as the 1980s. Susan Patterson, the sister of Neil Patterson Sr., claims to be the White Bear clan mother.
Tribal historian and shaman Wallace "Mad Bear" Anderson -- the most famous Tuscarora of the past century -- specifically warned about the phony clans prior to his death in 1983.
"Any future attempts to 'raise a chief' into one of these bogus clans will be stopped," Anderson wrote. "I write this account in good faith, with no attempt to hurt anyone's feelings, but instead to try to save our clan system from disruption by the type of Christian elements who burned our two longhouses to the ground in times past."
A wise man, Billings said a written constitution - similar to that adopted by the Seneca more than 160 years ago - is needed for the Tuscarora to even begin to extract themselves from the near feudal conditions under which they currently exist.
"I've been fighting this all my life," he said. "And those frauds -- who were turned down at the Condolence Ceremony -- they know that. The United States is fighting a dictator in Libya, but supporting dictators here."
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||May 31, 2011|