Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Would You Trust Your Environment to These Indians?

The latest Indian land claim lawsuit has liberal environmentalists all atwitter with the noble motivations of the Onondaga Indian Nation. From The New Standard:
Syracuse, New York , Mar 18 - The Onondaga Indian Nation has filed a unique, historic land rights lawsuit seeking title to approximately 4,000 square miles of their aboriginal territory in Central New York. Stretching from the Canadian border to Pennsylvania, the area includes the cities of Syracuse, Cortland, Oswego, and Binghamton, constituting the largest amount of land cited in a tribal land rights case in New York's history. But unlike typical land claims, the primary focus of the Onondagas' suit is environmental protection and recovery.
The Dread Pundit Bluto just took a little motor tour of the Onondaga reservation, located just south of Syracuse, New York, to find out if my memories of a filthy, litter-strewn area of open garbage dumps and discarded junk cars was still valid.

My recollections were not completely correct. The reservation is a much worse pigsty than I remembered. The first view a visitor has upon entering reservation land just off I-81 is trash dumped into the stream next to the Firecreek Diner, an Indian business. Traveling the road past the diner, the roadside is liberally festooned with trash which has been tossed out of car windows.

Further along, a burned-out trailer squats within feet of the road, rust indicating that it's been there for some time. More trash has been thrown around the trailer. Around the curve past a pristine-looking stream, swollen with spring snowmelt, the reservation's open garbage dump beckons. Signs warn that only residents are allowed to dump there.

There are a few pristine areas - ones that the Indians don't seem to have gotten to yet.

The Onondagas are considered a sovereign nation, but have a troubled history when it comes to self-rule. In the nineties, disputes about cigarette profits resulted in a schism between tribal elders and supporters of the smoke shop owners. The chiefs demanded a twenty-five cent per carton tax on all sales. The owners were agreeable but wanted the chiefs to account for how the money was spent. The chiefs refused, so the shop owners continued to collect the extra charge, but put the monies into escrow, pending resolution of the dispute. Supporters of the chiefs first blocked the shop owners businesses with large boulders, then burned them down.

These are the people who say that they are only concerned with the environment in their land claim, a claim which directly threatens the property of several hundred thousand people. Why then are the Onondagas so unconcerned about the environment on their own land? The Onondagas should clean up their own reservation before worrying about other areas of the state. People who live in glass longhouses shouldn't throw stones.

Full Disclosure: The Dread Pundit Bluto's own home lies within the Onondaga land claim area.