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Halftown
Must Go

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Media Resources / Press Kit

Contents:

Campaign Goals

The goals of the Halftown Must Go campaign are these:

Summary

The Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ (Cayuga Nation) are dealing with what the Nation's citizens have called a dictatorship, one enabled by the U.S. federal government. Since the mid-2000s, a Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ citizen named Clint Halftown has refused to step down after being removed by his Clan Mother from a temporary position within Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ governance. This shows open disregard for the authority that Clan Mothers hold in the governance of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, of which the Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ are a member nation. Rather than step down, Halftown has used intimidation and violence, enacted by a non-Indigenous police force he hired in 2018, to hold control of Cayuga Nation land and businesses and to maintain his own power.

Despite his removal, the U.S. Federal Government has bolstered Halftown, continuously legitimizing his role as "Federal Representative" by sending money designated for the Cayuga Nation by U.S. contracts (including COVID-relief money) to Halftown. Citizens who speak out against Halftown say they never see these funds.

However, there is now hope for an end to Halftown's oppressive regime. Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ Chiefs are actively seeking nation-to-nation dialogue with the U.S. Government to bring Halftown's tyranny to a close. After nearly a decade of inaction by the U.S. Government, non-Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ allies have joined growing Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷-led efforts calling for the U.S. to cease its recognition of Halftown. Chiefs have called upon the U.S. Government to respect Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ self-determination, a basic principle of international relations and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. With a pressing deadline looming for the Department of Interior to approve or deny a Land-into-Trust application from Halftown, a group of Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ people and allies traveled to D.C. in hopes of prompting the Department of Interior to engage in dialogue with the Council of Chiefs toward remedying this issue.

In-Depth Background

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is one of the oldest participatory democracies on earth. The Confederacy's governance is guided by its Great Law of Peace, a constitution passed down orally from generation to generation. The Haudenosaunee practices of democracy inspired the framework for U.S. representative democracy. Within the Confederacy's time-tried kinship-based governance, Clan Mothers play a crucial role in the process of selecting male representatives who may become Sachems (Chiefs). If a male representative behaves in ways that fail to live up to his responsibilities, his Clan Mother may remove his authority, following practices outlined by the Great Law of Peace. (For further details on the Great Law of Peace, see the Haudenosaunee Confederacy's official website.)

Clint Halftown, who was never a Sachem, had been serving as a representative of his clan when he was designated in 2003 as the Federal Representative of the Cayuga Nation to the U.S. Government. The role of Federal Representative is not recognized as a position within Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ governance. It is not specified in the Great Law of Peace, but instead is a position created by U.S. Congress and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (B.I.A.) to make it easier for the U.S. government to engage in contracts and agreements with Indigenous nations. Since 2003, Halftown has found ways to leverage the role of Federal Representative to increasingly consolidate power. Bernadette Hill, his late Clan Mother, removed Halftown from this role after she discovered he intended to sign a settlement agreement with New York State to effectively relinquish the Nation's sovereignty in exchange for a tax-free casino in the Catskills. Bernadette Hill informed Halftown of her decision to remove him from representative role multiple times in 2004 and 2005.

In the intervening years, Clan Mothers have selected new Sachems to fill vacancies on the Council of Chiefs, while Halftown has attempted to write his own “Council” into existence which does not include any Sachems. The Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy is clear that the government of the Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ is composed of Sachems and Clan Mothers, not the people on Halftown's Council. The Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ Council of Chiefs have consistently told the U.S. government, including via multiple actions through the U.S. legal system, that recognizing Halftown as a representative is a violation of Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ sovereignty. In 2011, the B.I.A. briefly affirmed the removal of Halftown's authority as Federal Representative. However, under pressure from Halftown's lawyers, they later “vacated” that decision on the basis of their own procedural technicalities. Over the years, the B.I.A. and Department of Interior (D.O.I.) have created various rationales to continue engaging with Halftown as the Federal Representative to the U.S. for the Cayuga Nation, and more recently to engage with the Halftown Council as the nation's government. This ongoing disregard for Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ self-determination is a violation of multiple articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

There are good reasons citizens have described the current situation as a dictatorship. Halftown consistently attempts to intimidate and silence those who speak out against him. In 2018, Halftown used Cayuga Nation funds to buy his own police force called "Cayuga Nation Police," made up of non-Indigenous, white, former U.S. police and F.B.I. personnel. He then used this police force in February 2020 to forcefully restrain Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ citizens in the middle of the night. Cayuga Nation Police awoke these citizens with guns to their heads, zip-tied them, and made them witness the destruction of Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ community buildings including a daycare, community gardens, and a school house that was used to teach Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ language and culture.

Given the frustrations of pursuing resolution through court proceedings while Halftown's oppression continues to escalate, the Council of Chiefs has been calling for a new approach. In May 2021, they put forth a letter including a call for people of the United States to take responsibility in pushing for accountability from the U.S. government on this issue. A movement of non-Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ allies living on Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ land has been attempting to answer that call, organizing a campaign under the banner #HalftownMustGo. These grassroots efforts have prompted local governments and elected officials to address the B.I.A. on this issue, with Seneca County, town of Enfield, town of Dryden, and City of Ithaca all having sent resolutions and letters in the past several months.

These efforts come at a critical time when the D.O.I. is considering an application to put Land into Trust. This application was submitted by the Halftown Council, and is set to conclude by June 2022. Approving this Land-into-Trust application would grant expanded possibilities for Halftown to build a casino on the land in question, while the deed for the land would technically be held by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Halftown's most recent similar application was denied in 2020, largely due to the violence perpetrated by Halftown, and many are hoping for a similar outcome in this case. Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ citizens living by the Great Law of Peace generally object both to any efforts to build a casino, and to the idea of a land deed being held by someone outside the Nation, particularly for the purpose of accepting a limited set of rights as granted by the U.S. Government. This opposition is heightened by the fact that the application was submitted by a "Council" that they deem illegitimate.

On Monday, May 16, 2022, a group of Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ people and allies hoping to prompt nation-to-nation dialogue with the Biden Administration on this pressing issue marched in Washington, D.C. Coming at the one-year anniversary of the request by the Council of Chiefs for help from U.S. allies, this historic cross-national gathering shined a light on Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ stories that have been underrepresented and put on display a large-scale visualization of a living 400-year-old peace treaty originally made between the Haudenosaunee and European settlers. Those gathered urged the Department of the Interior and B.I.A. to deny the Land-into-Trust application and immediately heed the Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ removal of Clint Halftown as a representative.

On August 3rd, 2022, Cayuga Nation Police bulldozed buildings of significance to Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ citizens who oppose Halftown, in a sequel to the destruction he wrought in February 2020. The buuildings demolished included the barn where Ceremonies were being held until the longhouse destroyed in 2020 could be restored, and the home of an elder lovingly called Grandma by the community, after she was violently dragged out of it. Gas and electricity to the home were not turned off before the demolition, putting everyone in the area in danger. On September 3rd, after a month of harassing and intimidating Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ citizens, Cayuga Nation Police "arrested" three Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ citizens, including a disabled elder, and tased one of the others in the process. Two of the citizens have been transported to a jail in Pennsylvania and are being held without bail.

Allies following these events can visit HalftownMustGo.org for background documents, templates, and resources to amplify the call for the DOI and BIA to immediately cease recognizing Clint Halftown as a representative of Cayuga Nation.

Media Spokespersons

Sachem Sam George
Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ Condoled Chief, Bear Clan
Media Preferences: Phone or Zoom
Availability: Most available Tues-Fri mornings, 10-noon; unavailable on Tuesday and Thursday evenings
Email: sevenclansam@gmail.com
Phone: 585-307-2701

Leanna Young
Gayogo̱hó:nǫ⁷ Citizen, Heron Clan
Media Preferences: Phone preferred, Zoom possible
Availability: Mon-Fri after 4:30 pm, some availability on weekends
Email: leannayoung2014@gmail.com
Phone: 315-577-2205

Ken Wolkin
Settler organizer and scholar
Media Preferences: Video interview
Availability: Evenings (from 6:00pm Eastern); weekends
Email: kewolkin@gmail.com
Phone: 585-478-8147

Multimedia

We've gathered a selection of photos, videos, audio clips, and more that can be shared publicly.

Past Press Releases

#HonorTheTwoRow
#IndigenousSovereignty
#HalftownMustGo