The Seneca Nation of Indians filed a lawsuit against New York State Thursday claiming the state failed to receive federal approval to build a toll road through the Nation's Cattaraugus Reservation.
The lawsuit against certain state officials seeks a permanent injunction that would prohibit them from taking any further action in what they call an ongoing violation of federal law.
The case dates back to 1954, when the Nation claims it was pressured to grant an easement for a thruway to be constructed over 300 acres of its Cattaraugus Reservation. Land easements on Indian Reservations require federal approval to be deemed valid, but the Nation claims New York State did not take action to get approval from the Department of Interior.
The Nation says it denied the validity of the easement since 1993 and initially sued the state in 1999. The judge then agreed with the Nation that the easement did not get legal confirmation from federal authorities but the case was rejected by the federal court, according to the Nation.
The Nation also says the lack of a legally valid easement for the operation of the Thruway on the Cattaraugus Territory puts a constraint on economic growth on the reservation.
The New York State Thruway Authority released the following statement Thursday afternoon to 7 Eyewitness News:
“We can’t comment on pending litigation but it’s well established that the Seneca Nation granted an easement for the Thruway in 1954. We have defended that position in the past and will continue to do so going forward.”