Tension within the Cayuga Nation escalates as press conference becomes violent

Local News

SENECA FALLS, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The Cayuga Nation Council of Chiefs (Unity Council) held a press conference Saturday afternoon at the site where buildings were demolished last week. Minutes after the press conference, violence broke out between members and supporters of the Unity Council and the Cayuga Nation Police, a police force established by Clint Halftown, the Cayuga Nation Representative federally recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

At the press conference, chiefs and clanmothers of the Cayuga Nation stated that they do not recognize Clint Halftown and his council as the government of the Cayuga Nation. In a release, chiefs said the current legitimate leadership of the Cayuga Nation is confirmed by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

“Unfortunately, I did see this coming. It was not the intention of the chiefs. It was not the intention of the people. Our intention was to get our point across and for the chiefs to say their piece, peacefully,” said Leanna Young, member of the Heron Clan within Cayuga Nation.

The seven Cayuga Nation chiefs who held the press conference brought supporters to Saturday’s event from other American Indian nations that make up the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

After the press conference, at about 10:55 a.m., a group of people supporting the Cayuga Nation Council of Chiefs crossed caution tape and entered the area guarded by the Cayuga Nation Police where the buildings were destroyed last week.

The interaction between the Cayuga Nation Police and members who support the Unity Council became violent as punches were thrown. State and local law enforcement monitored the situation, and tried to diffuse it by separating the opposing sides. The violence was eventually stopped when the Cayuga Nation Police used pepper spray on members and supporters of the Unity Council.

According to the Seneca Falls Police Department, police remained on the scene until tensions were de-escalated and attendees left the scene.

“Every step that we make now is very crucial to going forward…It’s very crucial for our children, to our future as a people, as Cayuga people and we need to be careful of the steps that we are taking so we take the right ones,” Young said.

The Seneca Falls Police Department said no local or state law enforcement agencies took anyone into custody.

The Seneca Falls Police Department says the Cayuga Nation Police did detain people, but did not say how many. The Cayuga Nation Police could not confirm nor deny that they arrested anyone from Saturday’s event.

Below is a response from the Cayuga Nation led by Clint Halftown:

In a release sent out on February 23, the Cayuga Nation Council of Chiefs said, “Clint Halftown and his followers have passed through the circle of joined arms, removing themselves from the domain of the Cayuga Nation and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.”  

The Unity Council views Cliff Halftown’s council as an entity of the United States, and at the press conference Saturday, the chiefs want, “any and all outside agencies who assisted Clint Halftown in the destruction of buildings to be held accountable under their own system of justice as an act of terrorism.”

The incident is still being investigated. Anyone wishing to provide information to law enforcement is asked to call the Seneca Falls Police Department at 315-568-4850.


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