Leaders and citizens of the Onondaga Nation were among members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in Canandaigua Tuesday to commemorate the 220th anniversary of the signing of the Canandaigua Treaty. The pact, signed in 1794, brought peace between the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora nations and the United States. It also recognized the sovereignty of the six nations to govern and set their own laws. But Onondaga Nation Counsel Joe Heath says over the centuries, it’s been ignored by state and federal governments with the taking of nation lands and other injustices.
“You know the Constitution very clearly says that treaties are supreme law of the land. It’s a fundamental tenet of a democracy that was created around the same time, just five years before this treaty. And yet when Onondaga filed this lands right action, not seeking to take land away from anybody, but merely seeking recognition that the land was theirs, our courts shamefully made up their new defense. It said ‘none of that matters, you’ve waited too long.’”
Heath says they’ve followed up their land rights action of ten years ago with a petition this past April, alleging human rights violations by the U.S. for not recognizing the treaty. He wishes the state and federal governments would follow the understanding relationship between the Onondaga Nation and Syracuse and Onondaga County.