A Native American tribe filed a petition Monday with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, claiming 2.5 million acres have been stolen from the Onondaga Nation by the state of New York since 1788.
“The failure of the US court system to protect the Onondaga Nation’s ancestral homeland has left the Nation with no choice but to seek assistance for human rights violations from the international community,” said the tribe’s attorney, Joe Heath.
The tribe filed a land rights action in 2005, but a federal court dismissed it.
The court’s response prohibits the Onondaga Nation from seeking remedy through legal action, so the tribe asked the human-rights organization to help resolve the dispute and offer a case study for indigenous people barred access to the court system.
“The federal courts’ inherently discriminatory ruling refused to consider the merits of our case,” said Chief Sidney Hill. “Our claims for relief arise from violations of treaty protected land rights. The court ruled that our actions are too old and ‘inherently disruptive’ and, therefore, cannot be considered.”
The Onondaga Nation hopes that assertion of its land rights will allow the tribe to maintain its culture and way of life, as well as the environment.
“The nation is searching for positive ruling that would allow them to continue its role as an environmental steward of the land and waters it once conserved for centuries,” Heath said.
The Onondaga Nation is one of the five original members of the Iroquois Confederacy and is native to the Syracuse, New York, area.
The U.S. recognized the tribe’s right to its ancestral homeland in the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua after the Onondaga people had fought against the American colonists in the Revolutionary War.
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