On March 17, the Dryden Town Board passed a resolution urging the removal of Clint Halftown as representative of the Cayuga Nation to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, citing allegations of abuse of power.
The Dryden Town Board released a written statement justifying their 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 read.
The Sun reached out to Board Member Leonardo J. Vargas-Mendez for further comment, but he did not respond by the time of publication. Vargas-Mendez made a statement in a press release sent to The Sun.
“As the Town of Dryden stands on Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ territory, it was our civic duty to
express our solidarity with the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ Council of Chiefs and Clanmothers,” Vargas-Mendez said.
The action comes as a part of the #HalftownMustGo campaign pushing for Halftown’s removal as liaison to the BIA and United States government.
Kathy Russell, a member of Dryden Groton Plus-Human Dignity Coalition, a non-native advocacy group that brought the resolution to the Town Board, hopes that popular support among non-tribal governments such as the Town of Dryden can push the BIA to rescind recognition of Halftown.
“If lots of town governments reach out to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of the Interior and lots of people in the US are reaching out, they’re more likely to do it.” Russell said.
The resolution includes the sending of letters to government officials such as Deb Haaland, head of the Department of Interior and the governor of the state as well as the regional director of the BIA.
Halftown has become a controversial figure, attracting allegations of abuse of power. One incident in 2020 involved a violent confrontation between protesters and the Cayuga Police Force employed by Halftown and the bulldozing of several Cayuga Nation buildings in Seneca Falls.
Dylan Seneca, a supporter of #HalftownMustGo and member of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ Nation, hopes that this move will help to raise awareness of the campaign.
“I was really happy, rejoiceful to hear that Dryden was brought on board to do something to bring awareness that comes from the outside government,” Seneca said. “It’s up to them to bring awareness to their own government.”
As the BIA representative, Halftown is eligible to apply for and receive grants from the federal government on behalf of the Cayuga Nation, as well as other powers that #HalftownMustGo supporters claim he has abused.
“A lot of us know he’s corrupt. just want to see him removed from the BIA that [he] claims he’s getting all his power from,” Seneca said.
Seneca expressed hope that with Halftown’s removal, the BIA would shift recognition to the Council of Chiefs and Clanmothers as a liaison between it and the Cayuga Nation.
“It’d be beautiful to see the chiefs and grandmothers be reunited with the government position for future generations to make consensus decisions,” Seneca said.
In an email to The Sun, Maria Stagliano, the official spokesperson for the Cayuga Nation, declined to comment but referred to a press release on the town’s decision.
“A non-Native local town board does not get to determine the governance of the Cayuga Nation, a federally recognized and sovereign Indian Nation,” said the press release from Stagliano. “For decades, county boards and non-natives have attempted to assert control over the Cayuga Nation’s activities and meddle in its internal governance…The Cayuga Nation Council remains committed to providing for the Nation through ongoing member benefits and advocacy in support of protecting their rights as a sovereign Nation.”