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By Mike Hudson

And then there were three.

Buffalo attorney Kendra Winkelstein resigned as legal counsel to the ruling clique of the Tuscarora Nation last week following allegations of the systematic sexual abuse of young girls on the reservation by individuals with strong ties to the Tuscarora leadership.

Winkelstein, who has represented tribal clerk Leo Henry, Neil Patterson Sr. and Neil Patterson Jr. for the past 18 years, told the Niagara Falls Reporter that the reasons behind her resignation were "personal."

She declined comment when asked whether she is now talking with agents of the federal government or any other law enforcement agencies. A spokeswoman for the Buffalo FBI office would neither confirm nor deny that Henry and the Pattersons are under investigation.

For Henry and the Pattersons, Winkelstein's resignation is potentially devastating, as Winkelstein has been the public face of the former "Gang of Four" to local, state and federal bureaucracies like the Niagara County Sheriff's Department, the New York Power Authority, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency.

She has been a key negotiator for the Tuscarora leadership, and has served as their representative in eviction proceedings and other highly criticized procedures undertaken by Henry and the Pattersons.

Speculation about Winkelstein's resignation was rampant on the reservation last week.

"A chair's got four legs, but you kick one out from under it and the whole thing falls down," one Tuscarora told the Reporter.

Without the thin veneer of legality Winkelstein provided, it seems unlikely that government agencies will continue to do business with a regime responsible for basic human rights violations, including the denial of electrical service and medical treatment, the hijacking of $12.5 million received by the Tuscaroras over the past six years under the Power Authority's relicensing agreement, and an alleged pattern of ongoing sexual abuse under which the parents of victimized children were threatened with the loss of their homes and land should they choose to go to authorities.

Ken Dougherty, a former Niagara County Sheriff's deputy and accredited counselor for those suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, says he became aware of the allegations a few years ago when several Tuscarora women came to him for help in dealing with sexual abuse that occurred to them as children.

Because of confidentiality and ethical standards, Dougherty said he could not give the names of the women, but said they all told fundamentally the same story.

A powerful Tuscarora man, related by blood to at least one of those currently sitting on the ruling clique, raped and abused the women when they were young girls between the ages of 11 and 16, he said.

"We're talking about an evil man," Dougherty said. "It's kind of surprising no one's shot him yet."

In fact, Dougherty said, the father of one of the girls in question had to be physically restrained after he took off after the alleged perpetrator with a shotgun.

"He was lucky that day, and he's stayed lucky."

The women waited years before coming forward with their allegations, because of the perpetrator's close ties to those in the Tuscarora government, Dougherty added.

"They didn't say anything out of fear," he said. "Fear that they would be removed from the rolls, that their parents would be removed from the rolls, losing their property, or not having the ability to buy property."

More recently, allegations of repeated incidents of child molestation have surfaced at the Tuscarora Health Clinic, and the situation is considered so grave that a meeting was held for clinic workers in September where they were instructed about what to say should anyone ask them about the situation.

Numerous sources on the reservation said last week that the case involves multiple victims and a former worker at the clinic -- related by blood to the suspect in the earlier case and to the member of the ruling clique as well -- who was quietly removed from his position last month.

According to the sources, the tribal leadership is deliberately conducting a coverup of what went on at the clinic, to the point of enlisting one powerful Clan Mother to warn the victims and their families of the dire consequences they might face should they speak out about what happened.

The Pattersons hold no official position with the Tuscarora Nation. Both Neil Patterson Sr. and Jr. have twice attempted to participate in Iroquois Condolence ceremonies that could have made them chiefs, but on each occasion they were denied by an overwhelming majority of the Clan Mothers.

Leo Henry was made an underchief back in the 1950s, and was thus disqualified from ever becoming a chief. Despite this lack of credentials, white authorities have elevated both Henry and the Pattersons to their current positions.

Last week, Henry hurried back from the refuge of Bradenton, Fla., where he had retreated several weeks ago to get away from the questions raised in a series of Reporter articles concerning the legitimacy of the Tuscarora leadership.

After more than 40 years of doing little more than collecting an ample paycheck, participating in lucrative land deals and denying enrolled Tuscaroras the right to health care and electrical service at their homes, Henry was seen all over the reservation attempting to do good works and convince people he is actually a caring individual after all.

Over the weekend, as temperatures dipped below freezing for the first time this year, several families with no electrical service sat shivering around wood stoves for heat, and many others, who are forbidden to have anything more than a small generator to provide electricity to their homes, were little better off.

Ironically, Neil Patterson Jr. took the opportunity to circulate the newsletter put out by his private company, the Tuscarora Environmental Project, to tout the benefits of low-cost electricity available to members of the tribe under the annual one-megawatt allotment the Tuscaroras receive as part of the relicensing agreement with the Power Authority.

"What should the Tuscarora Nation do with funds generated from the Low Cost Power allocation?" Patterson Jr. mused.

"Should it be used for immediate energy needs, such as energy-efficient appliance rebates and furnace upgrades?" he asked. "Or should it be saved for building longer-term community projects that provide sustainable energy sources, such as wind turbines and solar panels?"

Finally, Patterson Jr. did what he and his father do best -- he went ahead and spoke on behalf of what he claimed was a majority of the Tuscarora people.

"Most would agree the answer is 'a little of both,'" he concluded.

One megawatt is enough power to light and heat every single home on the reservation. What Henry and the Pattersons are actually doing is selling the bulk of the power on the open market and steadfastly refusing to tell anyone what is being done with the hundreds of thousands of dollars generated by the sales thus far.

While the power allotment was meant to benefit the tribe as a whole, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that it has benefited anyone other than Henry, the Pattersons, and perhaps a tiny coterie of supporters.

Henry and the Pattersons have successfully obfuscated the fate of $12.5 million in cash received from the state Power Authority since 2005, the hundreds of thousands of dollars sent along by the federal Environmental Protection Agency over the past two years, as well as significant funding received from the federal Department of Human Services.

How long will these and other agencies continue to prop up a broken-down regime so illegitimate that its own legal counsel abandoned it?

Now they also stand accused of helping to cover up repeated instances of one of the most heinous crimes known to man -- the sexual abuse of children at the hands of offenders connected to their regime.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Dec. 13, 2011