IRVING, N.Y. (WKBW) The two Native American owners of Snyder Beach say the recent actions by the Seneca Nation of Indians to evict 80 non-native occupants is illegal.
Co-owners John Metzger and Dan Maybee sent the following letter to Snyder Beach customers:
OWNERS OF SNYDER BEACH RESPOND TO
THREAT FROM SENECA NATION
IRVING, NY - Recent threats by the Seneca Nation of Indians to seek the removal of Snyder Beach
customers from the 170 cottages in the well kept summer community on the shores of Lake Erie near
Brant, NY have been met with a firm rebuke by the Native American owners of Snyder Beach, John
Metzger and Dan Maybee.
"The aggressive and confiscatory efforts of the Seneca Nation under the
leadership of its current President, Robert Odawi Porter, violate Federal and State law, the Nation's
constitutional protection of our property rights as enrolled members of the Seneca Nation, and the
customs, laws and traditions of the Seneca Nation," said Metzger.
Maybee added, "because he has refused our repeated efforts to discuss this matter with him, we are left to guess the motives of President Porter in pursuing this course of action, and in seeking to alarm our customers and draw
attention to his plan by issuing a press release late Friday afternoon. He seems to be using our property
and our hard working and decent non-Native customers as pawns to gain political advantages in
November's election, or for leverage in the Nation's various ongoing disputes with the State."
Metzger and Maybee emphasize that they stand ready to prove the validity of their ownership of
Snyder Beach as "allotted" lands within the Seneca Nation's territory, and the legal validity of their
contracts with their customers. They point to a written record of their ownership that originated in
1917 when Metzger's grandfather and Maybee's great-grandfather, John L. Snyder, first acquired
ownership of Snyder Beach and began operating the summer cottage community. That record includes
deeds recorded by the Seneca Nation, decrees of its Surrogate's court and numerous writings from the
Seneca Nation acknowledging the Snyder family's ownership. John L. Snyder was a prominent elder
in the Seneca Nation who, in 1904, became the first full blooded Indian to be admitted to the Bar in the
State of New York.
According to Metzger, "President Porter's complete disregard of my grandfather's legacy and my
family'S ownership of Snyder Beach over the past 95 years by improperly branding our customers as
'squatters' on the Nation's territory represents an abuse of power and the law that is a danger to the
rights of all Senecas."
"As evidenced by the operation of our family's business over the past 95 years, there is no State or
Federal law that prohibits our customers from continuing to enjoy their cottages at Snyder Beach, as
many of their families have done for generations," said Maybee. "The 170 cottages at Snyder Beach
are enjoyed by our customers' extended family members and friends for summertime activities in a
manner that is very respectful of the Seneca Nation's interests. We receive no services from the Nation
and we tightly control our customer base to ensure the preservation of the family atmosphere that was
intended by John L Snyder. We feel duty bound to preserve his legacy by standing up to and overcoming President Porter's heavy handed, misguided and wrongful threats."
The Seneca Nation of Indians previously released the following press release in regards to the eviction notices:
ALLEGANY TERRITORY, Salamanca NY, July 28, 2012 - The Seneca Nation of Indians Council voted unanimously in April to evict about 80 illegal occupants from Nation property known as Snyder Beach on the Cattaraugus Territory.
Most of the non-Senecas use homes on that portion of the territory as summer cottages. While making clear that the continuing unlawful presence of these people will no longer be tolerated, the Nation also gave them until Nov. 8, 2012 to leave the premises.
In the past, the Nation issued permits annually for use of the land. But it has not done so in many decades.
"This is a long-standing issue of unlawful occupation and is key for the Seneca Nation. The Cattaraugus Territory is for Senecas and removing the unlawful occupants will make more land available for Senecas," said Nation President Robert Odawi Porter. "It is quite clearly an illegal occupation, even if that may surprise some of the current residents and the general public.
"The federal government, specifically through the Congress and the Interior Department, has over the decades recognized the Nation's ownership of the Cattaraugus Territory, including Snyder Beach. The non-Senecas occupying cottages at Snyder Beach simply have no right to be there."
Under federal law, non-Senecas cannot hold any title or interest to Nation real property without Congressional approval. Congress rebuffed several attempts in the past by the Town of Brant and individual non-Senecas to do so in regards to Snyder Beach.
In addition, Congress has authorized only the Seneca Nation to lease land on its territories, via the Seneca Leasing Act of 1950. Congress recognized the Nation's sovereign authority to lease lands to non-Indians, as it has in the City of Salamanca, but no such permission will be granted for Snyder Beach occupants.