Cayuga Nation v. Tanner

Decision Date24 March 2020
Docket Number5:14-CV-1317
Citation448 F.Supp.3d 217
Parties CAYUGA NATION, Donald Jimerson, Michael Barringer, Gary Wheeler, Richard Lynch, Clint Halftown, Timothy Twoguns, B.J. Radford, and John Does 8-20, Plaintiffs, v. Howard TANNER, Village of Union Springs Code Enforcement Officer, in his Official Capacity, Chad Hayden, Village of Union Springs Attorney, in his Official Capacity, Board of Trustees of The Village of Union Springs, New York, Village of Union Springs, New York, and Bud Shattuck, Village of Union Springs Mayor, in his Official Capacity, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of New York

DAVID DEBRUIN, ESQ., MATTHEW E. PRICE, ESQ., ZACHARY C. SCHAUF, ESQ., JENNER, BLOCK LAW FIRM, 1099 New York Avenue, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20001, JEREMY M. CREELAN, ESQ., JENNER, BLOCK LAW FIRM, 919 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022, JOHN G. POWERS, ESQ., HANCOCK ESTABROOK, LLP, 1800 AXA Tower I, 100 Madison Street, Syracuse, NY 13221, Attorneys for Plaintiffs.

CHAD R. HAYDEN, ESQ., OFFICE OF CHAD R. HAYDEN, 1634 Lehigh Station Road, Henrietta, NY 14467, DAVID H. TENNANT, ESQ., LAW OFFICE OF DAVID TENNANT PLLC, 3349 Monroe Avenue, Suite 345, Rochester, NY 14618, Attorneys for Defendants.


DAVID N. HURD, United States District Judge




B. First Round of Litigation...224
1. The Cayugas Begin Economic Development...224
2. The Nation Files Suit...224
3. Lakeside Entertainment Opens for Business...225
4. The Supreme Court Decides Sherrill ...226
5. Lakeside Entertainment Closes its Doors...227
C. Second Round of Litigation...227
1. The Cayugas Get Back into Gaming...227
2. Union Springs Renews Enforcement Efforts...228
3. This Lawsuit is Filed...229
4. The Nation is Forced to Appeal...230
5. A Return to the Status Quo...231
D. Ending the Stalemate...232



B. IGRA Preemption...237
1. Civil Enforcement...238
a. Indian lands...239
b. Within such tribe's jurisdiction...239
2. Criminal Enforcement...243
C. Tribal Sovereign Immunity...244



This case arises out of a dispute between the tribal leadership of plaintiff Cayuga Nation (the "Nation" or the "Cayugas") and the elected officials of defendant Village of Union Springs (the "Village" or "Union Springs") over whether the municipality may regulate the Tribe's gambling activities at 271 Cayuga Street, a parcel of historic reservation land the Cayugas repurchased from the open market in 2003.

The parties have cross-moved for summary judgment on stipulated facts, and each side has supplemented the record with additional material in support of their respective contentions. The motions have been fully briefed and will be considered on the basis of the submissions without oral argument.


Although the Nation filed this legal challenge in 2014, the origins of this controversy can be traced back to promises made by the newly formed federal government well over two hundred years ago. Two in particular—one secured by law; the other pledged in treaty—helped set the stage for a massive shift in federal Indian policy that arrived in the early twentieth century. A quick review of all three historical developments is essential to untangling the contemporary posture of this case.

A. Relevant History

Before beginning, however, the reader should understand that a comprehensive account of North American tribal relations with European colonists encroaching on aboriginal lands would be significantly more convoluted than the brief, incomplete narrative presented in this opinion. See, e.g. , Seneca Nation of Indians v. New York ("Seneca I "), 206 F. Supp. 2d 448, 455-98 (W.D.N.Y. 2002) (chronicling these shifting relations in a suit by the Senecas to recover ownership of certain islands in the Niagara River).

Indeed, the Nation correctly points out that the details of this complex history are mostly absent from the limited fact record developed by the parties in this case. See Pls.' Response to Defs.' Local Rule Statement ("Pls.' Response to Defs.' Facts"), Dkt. No. 137-1 at pp. 2-41 (objecting to the Village's repeated citation to other tribal litigation as purportedly undisputed fact sufficient to support its bid for summary judgment).

Thus, to the extent that some of the following background is drawn from litigation that is unrelated to the ongoing land-use dispute between the Cayugas and Union Springs, it is included here as necessary context only; it will not be considered part of the fact record for purposes of resolving the cross-motions for summary judgment.

1. Nonintercourse Act

On July 22, 1790, exercising its authority under the Indian Commerce Clause of the Constitution, U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, Congress enacted the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act. Seneca I , 206 F. Supp. 2d at 482. More commonly known as the Nonintercourse Act, "[t]he law codified a hodgepodge of federal powers, some intended to protect the federal treaty power, others related to trade." Gregory Ablavsky, Beyond the Indian Commerce Clause , 124 YALE L.J. 1012, 1044 (2015).

Reenacted several times between 1793 and 1802, and later modified in 1834, the Nonintercourse Act remains on the books today. 25 U.S.C. § 177 ; Seneca I , 206 F. Supp. 2d at 482 (describing the Act's passage and revision history). In both its original formulation and in subsequent iterations, the Nonintercourse Act barred "sales of tribal land without the consent of the United States." Oneida Indian Nation of N.Y. v. County of Oneida , 617 F.3d 114, 116 (2d Cir. 2010).

2. Treaty of Canandaigua

Faced with the prospect of renewed hostilities from tribal resistance to its ongoing westward expansion, in 1794 the United States sought to broker what it hoped would finally be a lasting peace with the Iroquois Confederacy, a group of six member nations that included the Cayugas. Seneca Nation of Indians v. New York ("Seneca II "), 382 F.3d 245, 256-57 (2d Cir. 2004) ; Seneca I , 206 F. Supp. 2d at 486-87.

On November 11, 1794, after nearly a month of tense negotiations, an envoy from the United States and representatives for the six Iroquois member nations executed the Treaty of Canandaigua. Seneca II , 382 F.3d at 256-57 ; Seneca I , 206 F. Supp. 2d at 486-93. Although the talks had focused mainly on issues raised by the Senecas, the Treaty's final language included, inter alia , an acknowledgment by the federal government that certain lands were reserved to the Cayugas and to the other Iroquois member nations for their "free use and enjoyment." Id.

The parties have stipulated that the lands reserved to the Cayugas in the Treaty of Canandaigua encompassed 64,015 acres within the present-day boundaries of Cayuga and Seneca Counties in the State of New York, an area which the parties refer to as the "Cayuga Historic Reservation." Joint Stipulated Facts ("JSF"), Dkt. No. 123 at ¶¶ 4-5.

Unfortunately, though, the Cayuga Historic Reservation did not remain in the Nation's possession for long, since the State of New York continued to aggressively negotiate the purchase of huge chunks of reserved land from the Iroquois without the federal approval mandated by the Nonintercourse Act. County of Oneida v. Oneida Indian Nation , 470 U.S. 226, 232, 105 S.Ct. 1245, 84 L.Ed.2d 169 (1985) ; Seneca I , 206 F. Supp. 2d at 540. While these unauthorized land transfers were initially condemned by federal officials, subsequent administrations became increasingly accepting of New York's unilateral behavior as federal Indian policy shifted toward removing tribes westward. See Seneca I , 206 F. Supp. 2d at 540.

As relevant here, between 1795 and 1807, "the State of New York acquired all of the land encompassed within the Cayuga Historic Reservation." JSF ¶ 6.2 Thereafter, the Cayugas dispersed—some members of the Tribe headed west to join the Senecas on their lands, others sought refuge in Canada, and still others remained behind in the area near Cayuga Lake. Cayuga Indian Nation of N.Y. v. Village of Union Springs , 317 F. Supp. 2d 128, 132 & n.4 (N.D.N.Y. 2004).

3. Indian Reorganization Act

State and federal efforts to displace, disperse, or remove Indian tribes continued in various forms throughout the nineteenth century. Oneida Indian Nation of N.Y. v. City of Sherrill, N.Y. , 337 F.3d 139, 148-49 (2d Cir. 2003). By the late 1800s, however, the federal government had shifted toward a policy of "allotment." County of Yakima v. Confederated Tribes & Bands of Yakima Indian Nation , 502 U.S. 251, 253-54, 112 S.Ct. 683, 116 L.Ed.2d 687 (1992).

"The objectives of allotment were simple and clear cut: to extinguish tribal sovereignty, erase reservation boundaries, and force the assimilation of Indians into the society at large." County of Yakima , 502 U.S. at 254, 112 S.Ct. 683. "In the years in which the allotment policy was followed, Congress also stripped tribes of their authority to govern themselves, instead providing that Indians residing on allotted lands would eventually be subject to state civil and criminal jurisdiction." Upstate Citizens for Equality, Inc. v. United States , 841 F.3d 556, 561 (2d Cir. 2016) (citation omitted).

All of this came to an abrupt halt in 1934, with the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act ("IRA"). Upstate Citizens for Equality, Inc. , 841 F.3d at 560-61. "The IRA repudiated the allotment policy and aimed to restore to tribes, or replace, the lands and related economic opportunities that had been lost to them under it." Id. at 561. "The IRA's implementing regulations, promulgated by the U.S. Department of the Interior, create a process by which tribes and individual Indians can request that the Department take land into trust on their behalf." Id. at 562. "Land held by the federal...

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