Dryden City Council passes resolution calling for removal of Bureau of Indian Affairs Rep. Clint Halftown, citing allegations of abuse of power

On March 17, the Dryden City Council passed a resolution calling for the removal of Clint Halftown as the Cayuga Nation representative to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, citing allegations of abuse of power.

Dryden City Council issued a written statement justifying its resolution.

“By continuing to recognize Halftown, the U.S. government is enabling actions that oppress traditional Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ citizens and violate their human rights,” the statement said.

The Sun has reached out to board member Leonardo J. Vargas-Mendez for further comment, but he did not respond at press time. Vargas-Mendez made the statement in a press release sent to The Sun.

“As the town of Dryden is within Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ territory, it was our civic duty to

express our solidarity with the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ Clan Chiefs and Mothers Council,” Vargas-Mendez said.

The action is part of the #HalftownMustGo campaign pushing for the removal of Halftown as a liaison with the BIA and the United States government.

Kathy Russell, a member of Dryden Groton Plus-Human Dignity Coalition, a non-Indigenous advocacy group that presented the resolution to city council, hopes popular support among non-tribal governments such as the City of Dryden can push the BIA to rescind recognition of Halftown.

“If many city governments contact the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of the Interior and many people in the United States do, they are more likely to do so.” Russell said.

The resolution includes sending letters to government officials such as Deb Haaland, head of the Department of the Interior and state governor as well as the regional director of the BIA.

Halftown has become a controversial figure, drawing allegations of abuse of power. One incident in 2020 involved a violent confrontation between protesters and Cayuga Police employed by Halftown and the bulldozer of several Cayuga Nation buildings in Seneca Falls.

Dylan Seneca, #HalftownMustGo supporter and member of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ Nation, hopes the move will help raise awareness of the campaign.

“I was really happy, joyful to hear that Dryden was brought on board to do something to educate the outside government,” Seneca said. “It’s up to them to educate their own government.”

As a representative of the BIA, Halftown is eligible to apply for and receive federal government grants on behalf of the Cayuga Nation, as well as other powers that #HalftownMustGo supporters claim to have abused.

“A lot of us know he’s corrupt. just want to see it removed from the BIA which [he] claims he draws all his power,” Seneca said.

Seneca expressed hope that with Halftown’s withdrawal, the BIA would transfer recognition to the Council of Clan Chiefs and Mothers as a liaison between it and the Cayuga Nation.

“It would be beautiful to see chiefs and grandmothers come together with the position of government for future generations to make decisions by consensus,” Seneca said.

In an email to The Sun, Maria Stagliano, the Cayuga Nation’s official spokeswoman, declined to comment but referred to a press release about the city’s decision.

“A local, non-Indigenous city council cannot determine the governance of the Cayuga Nation, a sovereign, federally recognized Indian nation,” Stagliano’s press release said. “For decades, county councils and non-natives have attempted to exert control over the activities of the Cayuga Nation and meddle in its internal governance…The Cayuga Nation Council remains committed to providing for the needs of the Nation through continued member benefits and advocacy for the protection of their rights as a sovereign nation.

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