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TUSCARORA NATION WANTS PATTERSON, LEO HENRY TO SHOW THEM THE MONEY
By Mike Hudson
Niagara Falls Reporter
May 24, 2011
Members of a committee set up by the Tuscarora Nation of Indians to determine the fate of the recent $100 million state Power Authority relicensing agreement say the committee was nothing more than a dog-and-pony show set up to lend an air of legitimacy to what eventually became a simple money grab.
"I eventually stopped going to the meetings because nothing was being accomplished," said Corrine Crogan, who was selected by the Tuscarora Beaver Clan to represent them. "Neil Patterson and Leo Henry weren't coming, and they were the ones doing the negotiating with the state."
Ed Farnham, who represented the Bear Clan on the committee, said he was shocked when he read the amount the Tuscaroras received in the May 17 edition of the Niagara Falls Reporter.
"I was stunned," he said. "We had been given different numbers, $21 million up front or $55 million over the life of the agreement, but nothing like this."
The $100 million is set up to be paid to the Tuscarora in installments of $2 million a year over the 50-year term of the agreement. The state negotiated with Neil Patterson and tribal Clerk Leo Henry, who have since deposited much of what's been received so far into a dizzying array of bank accounts, investment-based certificates of deposit and mutual funds set up under the Tuscarora Nation name.
Records made available to the Reporter show $3,004,503 was deposited in checking, savings and money market accounts at an area bank, while $5,115,300 was divided between CDs with names like Global Basket, U.S. Industry Titans and Income Opportunity. Another $1,461,887 is contained in the Franklin U.S. Government, Real Estate and Total Return funds and the Templeton Global Bond Fund.
The total amounts to $9,581,690, not a dime of which has been distributed among the Tuscarora people.
The Seneca Nation of Indians, like the Tuscarora, are members of the Six Nations, or Iroquois Confederacy. But while the Senecas distribute income made at its three casinos among the enrolled membership and undertake projects like the building of new health clinics on the reservation, the Tuscarora leadership has squirreled the money away, and many on the reservation are poor.
To make matters worse, numerous Tuscaroras interviewed by the Reporter over the past two weeks say that those who have somehow incurred the wrath of Patterson and Henry are routinely denied access to the most basic services like electricity, running water or a land-line telephone.
"You've got a 70-year-old woman here who has to go out and get wood in the winter to heat her house," said one Tuscarora, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It's no wonder that a lot of these older people have respiratory problems."
The Tuscarora Nation has been embroiled in controversy over the legitimacy of the tribal leadership since April 30, when a Condolence Ceremony -- an Iroquoian ritual at which chiefs are elevated -- was held at the Tonawanda Seneca Reservation.
Neil Patterson Sr. and his son, Neil Patterson Jr., put themselves forward for chiefdom, but were denied after protests by several Tuscarora Clan Mothers, including Linda Hill of the Bear Clan and Lena Rickard of the Turtle Clan.
The Pattersons claim membership in the "White Bear" and "Sand Turtle" clans, illegitimate groups created as recently as the 1980s. Susan Patterson, the sister of Neil Patterson Sr., claims to be the White Bear Clan mother.
Tribal historian and shaman Wallace "Mad Bear" Anderson -- the most famous Tuscarora of the past century -- specifically warned about the phony clans prior to his death in 1983.
"Any future attempts to 'raise a chief' into one of these bogus clans will be stopped," Anderson wrote. "I write this account in good faith, with no attempt to hurt anyone's feelings, but instead to try to save our clan system from disruption by the type of Christian elements who burned our two longhouses to the ground in times past."
Iroquois custom and tradition dictates that, once a man is denied or "has his fire put out," he can never again be considered for a chief's position. Thus the Pattersons, lacking chiefdoms and heading up unrecognized clans, hold no status at all among the Tuscarora people.
But try telling that to the Power Authority, the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the Environmental Protection Agency. All of these white bureaucracies deal exclusively with the Pattersons and Leo Henry, who spends much of the year living in Florida and was unavailable for comment last week.
Since the Tuscarora have no written constitution, the Pattersons hold private "council meetings" at the Patterson home and base pronouncements and decisions on Tuscarora "law and custom," knowledge of which they alone possess.
"You could ask everyone on the reservation, and 99 percent of them will have no idea what that even means," said Farnham, who has long advocated the need for a written set of laws similar to those adopted by the Seneca and other tribes of the Six Nations. "As it stands now, law and custom basically amounts to whatever they say it is."
Much of that law and custom is enforced by Kendra E. Winkelstein, a Grand Island attorney selected by the Pattersons to represent them as "Tuscarora Nation General Counsel." Ironically, she has also represented Citizens Against Casino Gambling In Erie County, which engaged in a bitter battle with the Seneca to prevent them from opening the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.
Repeated attempts to reach Winkelstein in order to find out whether she's being paid by the Pattersons personally or out of Tuscarora tribal funds were unsuccessful last week.
Farnham and Crogan say a forensic audit of Tuscarora finances is needed to determine what's going on. No one on the reservation knows how much the Pattersons and Henry are paying themselves, whether numerous additions to the Patterson home have been paid for by the tribe, or where the monthly dividend checks from the nearly $10 million Tuscarora Nation investment pool are going.
"Nobody knows," Farnham said. "They don't want anybody to know."
The truth is that Henry and the Pattersons have set up a pretty nice little thing for themselves. How such an archaic, almost feudal system can continue to exist in the 21st century is a question that begs to be answered.