Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Welcomes Era of Respect with New York State
Sep 18, 2023
AKWESASNE -- The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is continuing their efforts to foster better relationships with external governments and agencies, including with New York State Governor Kathy Hochul’s Administration. On Friday, Seskehkó:wa/September 15, 2023; they had the opportunity to host NYS Deputy Secretary for First Nations Dr. Elizabeth Rule (Chickasaw) and voice the need to reinvigorate their government-to-government relationship with the State.
Appointed in June 2023 to the newly created position of Deputy Secretary for First Nations, Dr. Rule’s Indigenous heritage as an enrolled citizen of the Chickasaw Nation makes her a strong advocate for tribal issues. Prior to joining Governor Hochul’s Administration; she served as an Assistant Professor of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies at American University and formerly directed George Washington University's Center for Indigenous Politics and Policy.
Through the Deputy Secretary for First Nations, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe hopes that Governor Hochul’s Administration will continue to devote attention and allocate much-needed financial resources to address the challenges that face Tribal Nations across the State. In doing so, the Tribe welcomes the opportunity to improve the State’s understanding of tribal sovereignty and to overcome impediments that have strained past relationships.
“With the assistance of the Dr. Elizabeth Rule, we look forward to having an Indigenous voice within the State Government on important issues facing the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe,” shared Tribal Chief Beverly Cook. Chief Cook noted, “Services that are limited by jurisdictional boundaries, difficulties associated with police recruitment and retention, environmental contamination’s impact on tribal member’s health, and experienced care provided within extended households are just a few issues that are often unique to tribal communities.”
Challenges imposed by state-administered agencies however, are proving to be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of tribal clients; such as the transfer of the respite approval and payment process to Broome County, new financial eligibility guidelines for individuals dealing with a developmental disability, and limited funding for assisted living facilities to support a rapidly growing community.
Additionally, The Tribal Council stressed the impact of decisions that were made in the absence of tribal consultation, such as the legalization of recreational cannabis in March 2021. As a result, the Tribe quickly worked in unison with its membership to develop its own Adult Use Cannabis Ordinance, which was adopted in June 2021. It represented the first adult use cannabis law adopted by a tribe in New York State and the first across the Country that licenses tribal member-owned businesses.
“Over the years, the Tribal Council has voiced the ongoing need to engage in productive dialogue with the New York State Government through the establishment of a Native American Relations Office and recognition of our traditional territory by flying the Haudenosaunee flag at the State Capital,” said Tribal Chief Michael Conners. Chief Conners also stated, “We trust that this new relationship will contribute towards a cannabis trade agreement with the State that will enable our tribally licensed businesses to share their experience and expertise participating in a safe, regulated industry.”
The Tribal Council also noted obstacles enforced upon the Akwesasne community in their effort to improve the safety of local residents and travelers. As a result of traffic accidents that have spanned decades, the Tribe has made repeated requests for additional traffic signals at congested intersections. The need to improve road safety has been recognized by the federal Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) Grant Program however, the New York State Department of Transportation’s response has been an insistence for additional traffic studies, which were conducted when there was minimal traffic during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“I welcome the opportunity to have a more direct line of communication with the Governor’s Office to paint a better picture and future for Akwesasne and New York State,” stated Tribal Chief Ron LaFrance. Chief LaFrance noted, “The glorification of violence committed against Indigenous peoples that is still on display in the State Capital and the perpetuation of negative stereotypes must not be our legacy. Our future must be based on a willingness to work together under the spirit of respect to have positive outcomes for everyone, such as the State formally declaring September 30th ‘Every Child Matters Day’”.
PHOTO CAPTION: The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe hosted newly appointed New York State Deputy Secretary of First Nations Dr. Elizabeth Rule (shown center in purple) on September 14, 2023 to foster a better relationship with the State based on an improved understanding of tribal concerns and issues.
The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is the duly elected and federally recognized government of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.