ALBANY, NY ( release ) Wednesday morning, the New York State Senate Select Committee on State-Native American Relations held a public hearing in Albany to advance a productive dialogue between Indian nations and state government. Representatives of the Oneida, Seneca, and St. Regis Mohawk Indian Nation met with a bipartisan group of state senators to talk about economic development and challenges facing their tribes.
Members of the Select Committee attending the hearing included Senator George Maziarz, Senator Timothy Kennedy, and Senator Patrick Gallivan.
Senator George Maziarz (R-C, Newfane), Chairman of the Select Committee, said “It has been many, many years since there has been such a concerted effort to work with our Native American partners to advance our common interests. This was an opportunity for Senate members to learn more about the identities of the various nations and tribes, and what progress they are making on economic development, education, health care, and other quality of life issues. We will continue these discussions in a respectful and cooperative spirit.”
Senator Tim Kennedy (D-58th District) said, “New York has a long history of cooperation with the Native American nations throughout our state. The Senate Standing Committee on State-Native American Relations is a pivotal recognition of our cooperation and collaboration, and it will help us take important steps toward advancing our collective economic development goals. In Western New York, we’ve seen first-hand what can be accomplished by fostering economic partnerships with local Native American nations, specifically the Seneca Nation of Indians. As tribes like the Seneca Nation work to diversify their economies, New York State should continue to encourage any economic growth and job creation opportunities.”
Senator Maziarz noted that some ideas have already surfaced to advance future collaborations. One is to explore the appointment of a specific economic development liaison to the Native American nations to coordinate regional strategies with the newly-established Regional Economic Development Councils. Another is to invite the Native American representatives to a joint hearing with the Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee.
“We have to keep the momentum moving forward,” Senator Maziarz said, “because we must acknowledge, sustain, and support the substantial role that Native American nations play in our economy. Their enterprises create good jobs for thousands of New Yorkers. We should continue the dialogue and we should work together to bring key projects to fruition.”
Seneca Nation Stresses Outreach and Collaboration Key to Native-State Relations
ALBANY , NY, September 21, 2011 –( release ) In testimony delivered today in Albany before the Senate Select Committee on State-Native American Relations, Richard Nephew, the Chair of the Seneca Nation of Indians Council emphasized the need for ongoing and meaningful dialogue with the State and urged strong focus on a collaborative approach to economic development.
At the first-ever public hearing of the State Senate Select Committee on State-Native American Relations, Councilor Nephew urged committee chair Senator George Maziarz (R-Niagara Falls) and other Senators present to recognize the important economic contributions, job creation, and development efforts that the Seneca Nation has made in recent years and that it continues to make. “We have a commitment to investing in Western New York, and an interest in seeing the area grow and improve,” said Nephew. “In a short period of time we have become the 5th largest employer in Western New York, providing more than 6,000 well-paid jobs with full benefits. We operate a $1 billion economy and have invested $900 million in construction projects over the last nine years.”
Nephew acknowledged the historic challenges that have existed in relations between the Seneca and New York State, but said he was hopeful about a long and productive dialogue with State officials. “Our future is here and we are a significant catalyst for economic growth in the region. Good relations are key to our mutual success,” said Nephew.
The Seneca Nation operates government programs and services on its Cattaraugus and Allegany territories and three casinos in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca, with an annual payroll of $125 million. In addition, the Seneca Nation spends $77 million on local vendors and suppliers and in just the past year, Seneca gaming has generated $149 million in tourism revenue from out of state visitors, all of which has flowed into Western New York.
David Kimelberg, CEO of Seneca Holdings, the Seneca Nation’s private equity investment and holding company also spoke before the Senate Committee. Kimelberg, an enrolled Seneca, was enlisted to return to the Nation two years ago to lead the effort to diversify and further build the Nation’s economy.
“The Seneca Nation may be best known for gaming and tobacco, but we are rapidly evolving to develop other industries,” said Kimelberg. “The Nation committed $28 million in capitol and through Seneca Holdings and has expanded into telecommunications, broadcasting, green energy and construction, and we’re not done yet.”
Kimelberg emphasized some unique advantages that the Seneca Nation possesses, including the ability to obtain federal contract work. “Our strategy is to partner with other businesses, preferably in the Western New York area, to help us do the work and expand our operations. This is truly a win-win for the Seneca Nation, our neighbors and New York.”
The Seneca officials recommended that the Regional Economic Development Councils reach out to and work with the Indian Nations and tribes within their respective geographic areas. They also suggested that the Executive follow the Senate’s lead and formalize its Indian relations efforts.
“Conflict is more costly than cooperation,” said Nation Councilor Richard Nephew.