Native Trust Files Suit Over County Land Foreclosures

Nov 29, 2012

A legal battle has erupted as a trust for a Native American tribe files suit over a northern New York county’s plan to sell foreclosed lands at auction.

The Turtle Island Trust filed a lawsuit in NYS Supreme Court on Wednesday over an on-line auction sale of foreclosed properties scheduled to occur on Friday.  The trust was formed as part of an agreement between the state and the Ganienkeh Mohawks.  Turtle Island Trust Chair Reverend Don Washburn says they are challenging the legality of Clinton County’s foreclosure actions against 11 parcels.
Foley Hoag LLP Partner Gare Smith, an attorney representing Turtle Island Trust, says Clinton County has wildly exceeded its jurisdiction and authority.

Clinton County Treasurer Joe Giroux says the county has followed all state laws regarding foreclosure of the lands.

The Turtle Island Trust was created primarily to keep the peace between the Ganienkeh Mohawks and non-native officials following a 1977 armed standoff over land in Moss Lake.  The tribe is also notorious for a 1990 incident in which shots were fired from the territory at a Vermont National Guard medical helicopter forcing it down. A 11-day standoff followed in which investigators were not allowed on tribal land. Don Washburn is concerned that if this auction goes through there could be, as he puts it, a “real confrontation”.

County Treasurer Joe Giroux is also concerned.

The 11 parcels include a farm, golf course, and vacant agricultural lands with a total market value over two-million dollars. County officials note that the legal filing does not include a request for a stay of the auction.