Tuscarora Nation of Indians v. POWER AUTHORITY OF NY, Civ. A. 7844.

Citation164 F. Supp. 107
Decision Date24 June 1958
Docket NumberCiv. A. 7844.
PartiesTUSCARORA NATION OF INDIANS, also known as Tuscarora Indian Nation, Plaintiff, v. POWER AUTHORITY OF The STATE OF NEW YORK, Robert Moses, and Superintendent of Public Works of The State of New York, John W. Johnson, Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York

164 F. Supp. 107

TUSCARORA NATION OF INDIANS, also known as Tuscarora Indian Nation, Plaintiff,
POWER AUTHORITY OF The STATE OF NEW YORK, Robert Moses, and Superintendent of Public Works of The State of New York, John W. Johnson, Defendants.

Civ. A. 7844.

United States District Court W. D. New York.

June 24, 1958.

164 F. Supp. 108

Strasser, Spiegelberg, Fried & Frank, New York City (Arthur Lazarus, Jr., Washington, D. C., of counsel), for plaintiff.

Thomas F. Moore, Jr., New York City, for defendants Power Authority of the State of N. Y. and Robert Moses.

Louis J. Lefkowitz, Atty. Gen., of the State of New York; Paxton Blair, Solicitor Gen. of the State of New York, Albany, N. Y. (Julius L. Sackman, Albany, N. Y., of counsel), for defendant John W. Johnson.

164 F. Supp. 109

MORGAN, District Judge.

The complaint in this action was filed in the Southern District of New York on April 19, 1958. The action is one for declaratory judgment, wherein the plaintiff prays

(1) That it have a judgment and decree of this court defining its rights and status therein, particularly adjudicating that neither of the defendants, nor any of them, had any right, authority or power to acquire, or attempt to acquire, by appropriation or otherwise, any or all of the lands belonging to plaintiff within the Tuscarora Reservation;

(2) That a temporary restraining order be granted restraining and enjoining the defendants and each of them and their agents, servants, employees and attorneys, and all persons in active concert and participation with them, from entering upon, or taking any action with regard to any appropriation of land belonging to the plaintiff within the Tuscarora Reservation;

(3) That a permanent injunction permanently granting the relief sought by the temporary restraining order be granted;

(4) That this court set aside, vacate and annul all descriptions, maps, notices and other instruments in connection with the purported appropriation.

The complaint alleges that plaintiff is a recognized tribe of American Indians residing on the Tuscarora Reservation in Niagara County, New York. The complaint further alleges the existence of an actual controversy "which is definite, concrete, real and substantial, which involves and affects the legal relations of plaintiff and defendants, and vitally affects the public interest." This action is brought under Sections 2201 and 2202, Title 28 U.S.C. and the complaint alleges jurisdiction by reason of Title 28 U.S.C. Section 1331. The plaintiff claims relief under Article I, Section 8, of the Federal Constitution, authorizing Congress to regulate commerce with the Indian tribes, and Treaties of October 22, 1784,1 7 Stat. 15, and November 11, 1794,2 7 Stat. 44, entered into by the United States and the Six Nations of Indians, including plaintiff, and R.S. Section 2116, 25 U.S.C.A. § 177, and the Act of September 13, 1950, 25 U.S.C.A. § 233, relating to the alienation of Indian lands.

The defendant Power Authority of the State of New York is a corporate instrumentality and a subdivision of the State of New York. The defendant Robert Moses is the Chairman of the Power Authority of the State of New York and the defendant John W. Johnson is the duly appointed and acting Superintendent of Public Works of the State of New York.

It further appears that Averell Harriman, Governor of the State of New York, on April 11, 1958 signed into law Chapter 646 of the Laws of 1958, amending paragraph 1 of Section 1007(10) of the Public Authorities Law, as follows:

"The authority may determine what real property is reasonably necessary for the improvement and development of the Niagara River or the International Rapids section of the St. Lawrence River. If funds are made available by the authority to the state for payment of the cost and expense of the acquisition thereof, the superintendent of public works, when requested by the authority, shall acquire such real property in the name of the state by appropriation and, where necessary, remove the owner or occupant thereof and obtain possession, according to the procedure provided by section thirty of the highway law, insofar as the same may be applicable. The authority shall have the right to possess and use for its corporate purposes, so long as its corporate existence
164 F. Supp. 110
shall continue, all such real property and rights in real property so acquired."

Acting under the amendment provided by Chapter 646 of the Laws of 1958 of the State of New York as above indicated, the Power Authority of the State of New York obtained, after a long and at times bitter contest before the Congress of the United States, the status of a licensee of the Federal Power Commission, an agency of the United States Congress, to which the latter had delegated its authority concerning water power and hydroelectric development. While this debate in the Congress of the United States was proceeding as to what agency, if any, would be the representative of the United States following its treaty with the Dominion of Canada in 1950, the Dominion of Canada proceeded immediately, and has created, and is now utilizing, a very modern and most valuable hydroelectric power system, the turbines of which generate power and have for some years past; parenthetically, following the destruction of the Niagara Mohawk plant (formerly the Niagara Power Company) on the American shore of the Niagara River, negotiations were entered into resulting in sale by the Dominion of Canada to the United States of power from this very new equipment. Thus, in the final legislation by the Congress, empowering the Power Authority of New York to proceed as a licensee of the Federal Power Commission; and in the State of New York legislation of 1958, germane to the issue of power; time was shown to be most important.

The plaintiff claims that the Power Authority in its attempt to occupy lands of the plaintiff, is offending federal treaties and statutes and that the defendants have not requested, nor has the Congress of the United States granted, permission to acquire lands belonging to plaintiff. The plaintiff further alleges that the 1,300 acres of land within the Tuscarora Reservation which defendants have purported to appropriate is of a unique character to plaintiff; in that it has been occupied by the Tuscarora Nation for over 150 years; and is land upon which they hope and intend to live in the future. Plaintiff further alleges that in the event that an area of the Reservation is taken, it cannot acquire by purchase similar contiguous land by using the proceeds from the lands taken "since any newly acquired lands would not be part of plaintiff's community and would be alien to plaintiff's customs, traditions and history."

This is a novel argument in view of the fact that the 1,300 acres was purchased by the antecedents of those constituting the Tribe of Tuscarora Indians with moneys obtained from the sale of lands originally owned by this Tribe in North Carolina. The plaintiff further contends that the unique character of the land on the reservation is in sharp contrast to all alternative land available to the defendants outside the reservation. This is of no avail, as many cases have determined this to be a legislative and not a judicial question.

A great deal of historical and legal material respecting Indian lands generally, and the land of this plaintiff in particular, has been submitted by the parties. The reservation of this plaintiff appears to be unique among Indian lands in New York. The records indicate that a few Tuscaroras settled at or near the present reservation as early as 1780,2a but the tribe does not appear to have acquired legal title to the present reservation lands until some 20 to 30 years later, between 1800 and 1810. In addition, none of plaintiff's land was ceded or allotted to it either by the United States or the State of New York. The land was acquired in three parcels, to wit: one parcel acquired by deed from the Seneca Nation;3 a second parcel acquired

164 F. Supp. 111
by grant from the Holland Land Co.; and the third parcel acquired by purchase from the Holland Land Co.4 It is from this third parcel of 4,329 acres that defendant Power Authority wishes to take approximately 1,300 acres of land to construct a reservoir. There is no dispute among the parties concerning the way in which plaintiff acquired the disputed tract

Plaintiff claims the protection of the Treaties of Fort Stanwix, signed October 22, 1784, and the Pickering Treaty, signed November 11, 1794. In these treaties, the United States guaranteed the Six Nations peaceful possession of the land upon which they were settled. While these guarantees might conceivably apply to parts of parcel one or two, since some Tuscaroras appear to have settled therein between 1780 and 1795 even though title was not acquired until after 1800, they cannot apply to tract three, since the tribe did not settle therein until some time after 1804 and did not acquire title until 1809. It is not reasonable to interpret either treaty, in the absence of specific language so providing, to apply the guarantees contained therein to after-acquired lands. While such an interpretation might reasonably be made where the United States had ceded or allotted the after-acquired lands to plaintiff, such a result could never obtain where the after-acquired lands were purchased by plaintiff. In the latter eventuality, the only limit on the size of plaintiff's reservation would be the extent of its ability to purchase additional land. Certainly, it is not reasonable to assume that any of the parties to the treaties relied on by plaintiff had this result in mind.

The character of plaintiff's interest in the disputed land, and the location and control of the fee in that land, raises a two pronged problem. The first concerns the history of the specific fee involved, and the second, as mentioned previously, concerns the character...

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5 cases
  • Federal Power Commission v. Tuscarora Indian Nation Power Authority of State of New York v. Tuscarora Indian Nation, s. 63
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 7, 1960
    ...New York Indians v. United States, 30 Ct.Cl. 413 (1895); Tuscarora Nation of Indians v. Power Authority of New York, D.C.W.D.N.Y. 1958, 164 F.Supp. 107; People ex rel. Cusick v. Daly, 1914, 212 N.Y. 183, 190, 105 N.E. 1048, 1050. 13. See Handbook of American Indians, op. cit., supra, note 1......
  • New York v. Shinnecock Indian Nation, 03-CV-3243 (JFB)(ARL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • October 30, 2007
    ...were thereafter acquired by those who originally possessed that right.'") (quoting Tuscarora Nation of Indians v. Power Auth. of N.Y., 164 F.Supp. 107, 113 (W.D.N.Y.1958)), aff'd, 446 F.3d 410, 417 (3d Cir.2006); see also Cass County v. Leech Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, 524 U.S. 103, 115......
  • Delaware Nation v. Pennsylvania, 04-4593.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • May 4, 2006
    ...possessed that" title. District Court Opinion at 28 (citing Tuscarora Nation of Indians v. Power Authority of the State of New York, 164 F.Supp. 107 (W.D.N.Y.1958)). The Delaware Nation clarifies in its brief that it "never asserted that . . . its rights were . . . revived by way of the pat......
  • Tuscarora Nation of Indians v. Power Authority, 394
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • July 24, 1958
    ...York, and was later transferred (161 F. Supp. 702) to the Western District, where it was heard on the merits. The decision of June 24, 164 F.Supp. 107, ordered (1) that the Power Authority's motion for a three judge court be denied; (2) that the temporary restraining order previously issued......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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