Madison Co. leaders react to maps giving Oneidas more land

Madison County officials are speaking out over recent changes made by the U.S. Census Bureau, which changed the maps designating Indian reservation land.

The Census Bureau's changes increase the area mapped as Indian reservation from 32 acres to more than 307,000 acres, covering the northerly half of Madison County, the westerly third of Oneida County and stretching northward into Lewis County.

County leaders say the changes happened, at the request of the Oneida Indian Nation, without any notice to the state or counties affected and without an opportunity to be heard.

Madison County officials have handed over information it obtained to Governor Cuomo's Counsel's office and asked the Census office to provide information related to its decision.

"This is another example of the Oneida Nation's use of its casino profits and Washington influence to achieve its goal of recreating the historic reservation and its political sovereignty over vast amounts of Central New York," said Madison County Chairman John Becker. "This demonstrations without question why Madison County, faced with the option of handing over the county or resisting its complete diminishment, has had no choice but to continue to fight both in the courts and in the halls of Congress."

The Oneida Indian Nation issued this statement, "This is not a new issue or a recent change. The map, which is prepared by the United States, properly reflects the United States' longstanding position on the Oneida Nation reservation," said spokesperson Mark Emery. "Any previous maps that suggested a different reservation were inaccurate legally, factually and historically, and corrections are appropriate. Madison County officials need to stop spending public money fighting old battles which they repeatedly have lost, and instead redirect their energies on the good that can result if they work together with the Oneida Nation and move forward with a mutually respectful relationship."

When asked for further comment Thursday, Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said "Wwell it's so ironic -- our people owned this entire country, we're left with just a few acres. We're not interfering with anybody...we're actually complementing economically this region unlike anybody else. I don't know why everybody has to make something out of nothing... it's a tempest in a teapot."

Halbritter continued "Everybody knows this was our reservation, look at the titles when we buy land... so it's no big secret. You know, it's time for people now to start getting beyond these petty disagreements and start working on things that really build our community and upstate New York."

For its part, the U.S. Census Bureau says it made the boundary change "in a manner consistent with the Department of the Interior opinion." The Department of the Interior says the map showing 300,000 acres of reservation was correct.

Click here to download and view a 2000 census map of the Oneida Reservation.

Click here to download and view a 2010 census map of the Oneida Reservation.

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