Oneida Indian Nation Request to Take Land into Trust
Within the last two decades, the Oneida Indian Nation of New York (OIN) has acquired fee title to approximately 17,370 acres of real property scattered over thirteen towns, three villages and two cities within the counties of Madison and Oneida. Consisting of hundreds of different and predominantly non-contiguous parcels, this newly acquired property is separate from the 32 acres that was the subject of United States v. Boylan, 265 F. 165 (2nd Cir. 1920), error dismissed, 257 U.S. 614 (1921) (the 32 Acres). While this newly acquired property is located within the area that was once occupied by the Oneida people before the nineteenth century, it is not property over which the present OIN can assert sovereignty. Rather, this property is within the sovereign jurisdiction of the State of New York.
The OIN seeks to obtain the right to exercise sovereignty over these newly acquired lands by transferring their fee title to the federal government, which would hold it in trust for the benefit of the OIN. The OIN has applied to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for such transfer under 25 U.S.C. § 465 and 25 C.F.R. Part 151. A request was made for such transfer by letter dated April 4, 2005 from the OIN Representative, Ray Halbritter, to the Director of the Eastern Regional Office, United States Department of the Interior (DOI). A copy of this letter is linked above.
In correspondence dated September 20, 2005 from the Director of the Eastern Regional Office, BIA, to the Honorable George Pataki, Governor of the State of New York, the BIA indicated that the newly acquired lands had been divided into three groups: Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3. The BIA requested comments from New York State concerning the annual amount of property taxes currently levied on the parcels, whether there are special assessments currently assessed on the subject parcels, how the parcels are currently zoned and any governmental services that are currently provided to the property by state jurisdictions. The consulting firm of O'Brien & Gere was retained by the State of New York to assist in the preparation of these comments. Consistent with the BIA's guidance in the September 20, 2005 correspondence, O'Brien & Gere prepared a report to address the areas identified by the BIA. This report, and the state's comments, can be found at the links above.
The BIA, as lead agency pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), with cooperation of the OIN, intends to gather information necessary for preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for taking into trust the 17,730 acres of land currently held in fee by OIN. Linked above are two relevant documents relating to the NEPA review. The first is a letter dated November 30, 2005 from Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel James H. Ferreira, Esq., to Franklin Keel, Regional Director, BIA, requesting cooperating agency status in the NEPA review. The second document is a letter dated January 23, 2006 from DEC Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan to Franklin Keel that provides New York State's comments regarding the proposed scope for the NEPA environmental review.
Related case documents:
Oneida Indian Nation Application to BIA (pdf, 190 kb)
New York State's Comments Regarding NEPA Review (pdf, 113 kb)