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By Mike Hudson

A June 8 letter sent by Tuscarora Elder Douglas S. Anderson and addressed to both President Barack Obama and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo states in plain English that the $100 million settlement the Tuscarora received has been "misappropriated" and that the state and federal governments should immediately freeze all tribal assets.

Furthermore, the letter asserts that the one megawatt of electric power the Tuscarora received under the settlement has also been misappropriated, and that it has not been used to benefit those living on the Reservation, as required under law.

"Please place all the financial assets etc. into a trust fund for the Tuscarora Nation of Indians until the Relicensing Settlement agreement between the Power Authority of the State of New York and the Tuscarora Nation are accountable for all financial assets," Anderson wrote.

Anderson, who has served as the Tuscarora ambassador to the United Nations, is demanding that tribal leadership be as transparent about spending the people's money as any other governmental agency.

Accountability and transparency have been at the heart of the dissatisfaction by a majority of the Tuscarora people with the leadership of Tribal Clerk Leo Henry and the father-and-son team of Neil Patterson and Neil Patterson Jr. The three served as self-appointed negotiators with the Power Authority and have since invested funds received thus far under the 50-year agreement in a number of hedge funds and money market accounts.

A significant amount of the money was placed in companies with a heavy reliance on alcohol sales and casino gambling, activities traditionally forbidden by the Tuscarora. Even more of the money remains unaccounted for.

Making matters worse, no one on the Reservation outside the Henry-Patterson circle was informed of the ultimate settlement amount. Three members of the financial committee set up by the tribe to oversee the settlement told the Niagara Falls Reporter they were led to believe the Tuscarora received $21 million or $55 million, depending on how the deal was structured.

They said they were stunned after reading an article in this paper that quoted state Sen. George Maziarz on the $100 million figure.

Ed Farnham, who represented the Bear Clan on the financial committee, said that the U.S. Justice Department has been asked to begin an investigation into the disposition of the Power Authority money.

While Leo Henry is a chief of the Turtle Clan, the Pattersons were denied chiefdom in a Condolence Ceremony held in April on the Tonawanda Seneca Reservation. Since long before the French and Indian War, the chief of the Snipe Clan acted as Tuscarora spokesman in all dealings with other tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy and with foreign governments.

But in 1992, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) picked Henry as spokesman for the tribe, fundamentally altering the age-old form of Tuscarora government. A bitter battle broke out as then-Snipe Clan Chief Webster Cusick fought to retain the traditional role of the clan in governance of the tribe.

While six of the Tuscarora Clans are each entitled to a principal chief and a sub-chief, the Snipe Clan only has one chief.

And in the court case that resulted from the BIA's decision to make Henry the tribal spokesman, Henry himself admitted the role of the Snipe Clan chief in Tuscarora history under cross examination by Buffalo attorney Joseph Zdarsky.

"If you go back in history, I think he was like a speaker or something, spokesperson for the Nation at the Confederacy," Henry testified.

Zdarsky then asked whether the Snipe Clan chief was the person designated by the Tuscarora to speak for the tribe at Six Nations meetings.

"Or recognized by the Six Nations," Henry answered.

Cusick ultimately lost the case, and on Nov. 17, 1997, the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the BIA, upheld the decision on appeal. Sadly, he never lived to see the Snipe Clan regain its traditional role in Tuscarora governance, dying in 2001 at the age of 72.

Today, the old grievances have been rekindled, thanks to what many see as the irresponsible and self-serving handling of $100 million that was meant for all of the Tuscarora people, not just those hand-picked by the white bureaucracy of the BIA for elevation to positions to which they have no traditional right.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com June 21, 2011