FROM THE ARCHIVE
Congressman's ad attacks land claims
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OCTOBER 20, 2000

A new ad taken out by the Senate campaign of congressman Rick Lazio (R-New York) takes aim at a controversial subject in New York: land claims.

"Homes, farms and businesses are all threatened," reads the 60-second radio ad. "Native Americans have rights, but so do property-owning New Yorkers. This Clinton lawsuit against our homeowners is extreme and wrong."

Lazio represents the 2nd district of New York and trails his opponent, First Lady Hillary Clinton, in some polls for the state's Senate race. His ad began running in upstate New York, home to several tribes with land claims suits, on Tuesday.

At least one tribe, the Oneida Nation, is criticizing the ad. Yesterday, the tribe's spokesman characterized the ad as "inaccurate" and "misleading."

"Its the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that fans the flames of hatred in the hopes of getting a few votes," said Mark Emery.

In 1998, the Department of Justice and the tribe sought to include both the state of New York and 20,000 landowners to the tribe's 26-year-old lawsuit seeking compensation for 250,000 acres of land illegally transferred to the state.

But as Emery points out, there is no lawsuit against homeowners, contrary to Lazio's ad. In September, Judge Neal McCurn ruled that the landowners couldn't be part of the suit and the Justice Department and the Oneida Nation said they will not appeal the decision, an action Emery says has helped lower tensions in upstate New York.

"This ad, the Lazio campaign, doesn't do that," said Emery. Lazio makes his home in Long Island.

With the ad, Lazio joins other New York politicians who have criticized the government for their involvement in the Oneida, Seneca, and Mohawk land claims cases. Governor George Pataki, with whom Lazio regularly campaigns, recently wrote a letter to President Clinton, calling on the government to "abandon this unfair attempt to rewrite the long history of the federal government's mishandling of Indian affairs."

But Pataki won't be getting his wish any time soon. Judge McCurn has ruled the state can be added to the lawsuit and the Justice Department has dismissed his suggestion.

"Governor Pataki ignores the fact that the federal government is obligated by law to help right some of the wrongs done to Native Americans when their land was taken from them illegally," said spokeswoman Cristine Romano in response.

Next week, the Oneida Nation is hosting the fall conference of the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET). Emery said both Lazio and Clinton have been invited to address the 23 member tribes, but neither has accepted.

Lazio and Clinton weren't available for comment yesterday.

Relevant Links:
The Oneida Indian Nation - www.oneida-nation.net
United South and Eastern Tribes - oneida-nation.net/uset
Lazio for Senate - www.lazio.com
Hillary 2000 - www.hillary2000.com

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