Remember the Surrender 

A Native Viewpoint opinion/editorial by Leslie Logan, Seneca, Cattaraugus territory.

On January 12, 2022, one year ago today, then Seneca Nation President Matt Pagels, surrounded by 14 masked Councillors, announced in a late evening social media post that he had entered into a Settlement Agreement with New York State to hand over more than half a billion dollars in disputed gaming revenue share payments.

Some Seneca people stumbled across the post scrolling around Facebook. Some people learned about it on the 11 o’clock news that night.

Four days prior, in January Council, no vote had been taken on the mammoth agreement, in fact, it wasn’t even on the agenda.

The news of the agreement sparked a 3-month internal firestorm leaving the Nation divided over the legality of the president’s ability to single-handedly enter into the agreement, the lack of Council vote, and the absence of prior, informed consent to the Seneca people. Several lawsuits were filed in the nation’s court, but those efforts were futile.

Months of public opposition, a petition by a reinvigorated Mothers of the Seneca Nation, and dozens of grassroots and public meetings resulted in Council halting the payments, deferring to a federal determination on outstanding questions. 

Leslie Logan at the April 15 rally
Leslie Logan at the April 15 rally

A March letter from National Indian Gaming Commission officials to the Nation raised more questions than answered. The National Indian Gaming Commission even conceded that the value of exclusivity had been diminished — and the Seneca people thus maintained that the revenue share payments to the State required further review and should still be held back. But Council and Matt Pagels took the letter as a definitive determination and proceeded with their drive to settle; their “defend the surrender” tune remained unchanged. 

We all know how it worked out. Kathy Hochul, a local Hamburg girl, bested the Nation by freezing the Nation’s bank accounts, throwing the Seneca Nation into a state of economic paralysis. The Nation caved. Surrendered. Paid. Game over.

Then Hochul pulled a sucker punch and the next day announced she would be tossing nearly $420 million of the revenue shares to the building of a new Bills stadium— defraying the cost to fracking billionaire team owners Terry and Kim Pegula and gifting gaming competitor Delaware North, stadium concessionaires, a sweet deal.

Kathy got to look like a hero, while the Seneca just looked like holdout chumps. And after it was all over, in their infinite bruised wisdom, the Seneca administration rolled out a million-dollar PR Campaign to help repair its wounded reputation and drum up local support as it limped toward the negotiating table on a new gaming Compact.

Many of those on Council, including the executives Matt Pagels and Rickey Armstrong, who were unabashedly in favor of forking over the disputed gaming payments, got re-elected; no consequences for ignoring the expressed will of the people that had fervently opposed payments since well before the arbitration came down in January 2019 that went in favor of New York State.

Every year in September, we Remember the Removal- the impacts of the building of the Kinzua Dam, when significant Ohi:yo lands were lost, a treaty was broken, homes were burned by the Army Corps of Engineers, families were relocated, and a community was devastated. We Remember the Removal and revisit the horrors so that our children will learn the tragic history, all so that the same nightmare will not be repeated. By remembering the removal, we honor our survival and resilience.

We should do the same for the surrender— Remember the Surrender— so that we learn from it and never allow the state to take economic advantage of us again. 

We should also Remember the Surrender so that we never allow our elected officials to reduce us, soil our reputation and leave us in a weakened state. We should not be content to merely survive, we must gather strength and make decisions that enable the Seneca to thrive.

It’s time to act Seneca again, reclaim our power, the power of the people. 

Remember the Surrender and Never Surrender Again.

One thought on “Remember the Surrender 

  1. Nya weh! For bringing all that information back on this date. And yes, please bring it back every year so we can remember not to let it happen again and teach our future generations about what happened and how it happened.

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