“Friday Conversation with… Clint Halftown” by David Shaw (Time, April 8) gave Mr. Halftown occasion to boast and exaggerate.
After the death of Cayuga Chief Vernon Isaacs in 2003, Clint Halftown became the nation’s federal representative, serving as “liaison officer in government-to-government communications.” Despite Mr. Halftown’s accomplishments in the Cayuga Nation government, Bernadette Hill, a clan mother, removed Mr. Halftown from his limited and temporary role. What went wrong? Mr. Halftown tried to be a leader.
The newly welcomed chiefs (2005), including Sam George, were installed by the clan mother a year later. “The reason we are here and the reason we have to do this is because citizens are being abused by his decisions that he makes,” George said. The Gayogoho:no accused Halftown of abusing his power for the benefit of his family, of dictatorial behavior, of excluding the council from attending meetings and conducting the affairs of the nation, and of firing and threatened to fire employees and expel those who oppose him.
“Mr. Halftown clings to power because of this rather eccentric federal administrative procedure,” said council attorney Joe Heath (Gayogoho: No).
The Gayogoho:no Council and its supporters say Halftown is not acting in the best interests of the nation’s members. They also do not support the operation of a gambling hall.
“Based on a review of documents submitted by Halftown and the council, including the affidavits of the Nation’s three Clan Mothers”, (BIA Director Eastern Regional Office) Franklin Keel wrote, “I conclude that the source of the changes (in federal representatives and council members) was the action of each clan mother in the exercise of her traditional clan responsibilities. I would be remiss if I did not recognize the results of this exercise of the ancient traditional authority by the Clan Mothers…According to Haudenosaunee tradition, the Clan Mothers are the people responsible for appointing representatives of their respective clans to sit on the Council of the Nation.. Therefore, for the purposes of the government-to-government relationship between the United States and the Cayuga Nation, I recognize the Council of the Nation (Gayogoho: no) as set forth in Cayuga Nation Resolution 11-001” (Indian Country, 8/25/2011).
The Two Row Wampum (1613) and the Treaty of Canandaigua (1794) are the treaties that govern the relationship between the United States and Gayogoho:no governments. The two-row agreement stipulates that European settlers, later the United States, and the Haudenosaunee would live in harmony on the River of Life paddling their own canoes in peace and respect, and not interfering with the governance of the other. Article 6 of the United States Constitution states that “all treaties made or to be made under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land”. These treaties are still in force.
Clint Halftown is not recognized by the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee. Mr. Halftown cannot separate the Cayuga Nation from the Six Nations Confederacy and go it alone.
Shaw’s question to Mr. Halftown about the role of Clan Mothers is dishonest. Shaw suggests, “Some say the leaders of the Nation should be chosen by the Clan Mothers.” After nearly 50 years of covering Cayuga Nation developments, I think he would know the role of clan mothers in choosing Cayuga Nation leadership, regardless of his biases. The Great Law of Peace explicitly states the role of clan mothers.
Halftown’s response, “That is not the view of the citizens of the Cayuga Nation”, is disingenuous. Mr. Halftown is doing what the founding fathers of the US government tried to do: ignoring the clan mothers.
Tony Del Plato is a village administrator in Interlaken who contributes opinion pieces to the Finger Lakes Time often.