Onondaga Nation files land claim petition with int'l commission against US

Jennifer/via Flickr
April 16, 2014

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the Onondaga Indian Nation’s land dispute with the state of New York, the tribe’s domestic options have been exhausted. So they’ve decided to bring their claim to an international commission.

It’s been six months since the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the Onondaga’s claim to two million acres of land in central New York. In the lawsuit first filed in 2005, the nation says land was illegally taken from it in the 18th and 19th centuries.

With no higher court left to turn to in the U.S., the Onondaga filed a human rights violation petition with the Organization of American State’s human rights commission.

The body has no legal authority here, but Onondaga Nation attorney Joe Heath says it could set a framework for bringing its argument to the state, or even Congress.

"The nation is hopeful that with that kind of a ruling, that we can move closer to getting everybody into a discussion to find some healing, or some justice, for these ancient harms," says Heath.

Heath says any kind of decision or recommendation from the commission could take several months – or even years, but the nation is willing to wait. He says they’ve already waited more than two centuries.

Heath and other Onondaga Nation leaders went to Washington D.C. to file the petition and hold a rally.