St. Regis Mohawk police vehicles in New York. Photo: St. Regis Mohawk Tribe

St. Regis Mohawk Tribe welcomes recognition of authority on ancestral land

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe will continue to provide law enforcement services on its ancestral territory thanks to a bill signed into law in New York state.

Senate Bill 4276 permanently recognizes the tribe's authority in an area known as the Hogansburg Triangle. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) signed the measure -- which enjoyed unanimous support from lawmakers -- on Monday.

“The signing of Senate Bill 4276 by Governor Cuomo continues to provide clarity to law enforcement and resolves jurisdictional ambiguity in a manner that respects tribal sovereignty,” Chief Eric Thompson said in a press release on Tuesday. “Through collective efforts, new state law continues to make the community of Akwesasne whole by recognizing the authority of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police in the Hogansburg Triangle.”

Tribal police have long enforced state law on the reservation. But the 2,000-acre Hogansburg Triangle, also known as the Bombay Triangle, was left out due to disagreements about the status of the land.

The purple-shaded area marked "A" denotes the Hogansburg Triangle in New York. Image: St. Regis Mohawk Tribe

As a result, state law enforcement didn't pay much attention to the area, exposing a jurisdictional void. A 2015 law changed the situation and now it's been permanently addressed by Senate Bill 4276.

“This is an historic moment for the Saint Regis Mohawk Police Department that has been long overdue,” Chief of Police Matthew Rourke said.

The tribe is still working on a settlement to resolve its claims in the Hogansburg Triangle. An agreement has been ratified by one county but not another so the deal has yet to advance.

Meanwhile, the tribe has slowly been acquiring properties within the area. Three land-into-trust applications totaling about 218 acres were filed earlier this year, representing just a small portion of what the tribe originally owned.

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