Lawyers for the Seneca Nation of Indians sued New York State on Thursday, charging that the state broke federal laws more than 60 years ago when it built a 2.7-mile section of the New York State Thruway through Seneca territory in southern Erie County.
The lawsuit demands that the state compensate the Senecas for its use of the land, and it also seeks to stop the state from collecting tolls on the Seneca's Cattaraugus Territory near Irving.
The dispute over the Thruway between the Seneca Nation and the state has been around for decades. State officials have always maintained they did nothing improper or illegal, pointing out that they paid the Senecas $75,000 for the right to build the Thruway through the Seneca land.
According to the Senecas, its leaders were "pressured" in 1954 to agree to an easement allowing the Thruway to be built on Seneca land that is legally designated as an Indian reservation. The Senecas allege that the state needed federal government approval to get a land easement on an Indian reservation but did not get that approval in the 1950s.
A large plywood sign standing Thursday on the side of the Thruway in the disputed stretch says the state owes the Native American nation $675 million in tolls based on the number of vehicles that drive each day over Seneca land.
Source: The Buffalo News