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Tuscarora Nation Tribal Clerk Leo Henry came up from his home in Florida last week to do a little damage control. He met with a number of Clan Mothers to tell them that the tribe's dirty laundry shouldn't be aired in public, especially not in a white-owned newspaper like the Niagara Falls Reporter.

The truth is that the Tuscarora aren't worried about dirty laundry so much as they're worried about money laundering. They want to know where the $100 million settlement the tribe received from the state Power Authority in 2008 is going.

A series of articles in this newspaper revealed that virtually no one on the Reservation knew the magnitude of the settlement, including representatives chosen by the seven Tuscarora Clans to sit on a finance committee that was supposed to determine what happened to the fortune. Committee members interviewed by the Reporter said that their understanding was that the amount was half or less than what the tribe actually received.

Henry, the father and son team of Neil Patterson and Neil Patterson Jr. and their attorney, Kendra Winkelstein of Grand Island, negotiated with the Power Authority behind closed doors during the process, and have since maintained silence about what is being done with the money. There is only one reason we've ever seen for any government attempting to conceal its actions from the people it is supposed to represent, and that is that the people simply wouldn't put up with it.

To make matters worse, numerous sources on the Reservation have confirmed that Henry and the Pattersons routinely use Winkelstein to deny residents who meet with their disapproval access to the most basic services, such as electricity, phone service and water, in order to enforce their rule on the Nation.

Clearly, the situation is out of control, and just as clearly, the U.S. Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies need to look into what happened to the Tuscaroras' $100 million, and the medieval caste system that allows such things to occur in the 21st century.

The Pattersons were recently denied the chance to be raised as chiefs in the tribe following a protest by the Clan Mothers. The only status they have is that given them by the Power Authority, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other agencies of the white American government. It's clearly a system that benefits the few at the expense of the many.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com June 7, 2011