On February 17, 2009, the oldest indigenous Native American tribe in NJ filed a lawsuit against the State of NJ, Governor Corzine, and his Administration, as well as the NJ Commission on American Indian Affairs. That lawsuit is still in Federal Court at this moment and has NOT been dismissed.
In fact, the scope of the case has expanded exponentially. As of a new filing on June 16, 2010, the territory now includes the Island of Manhattan & Hudson areas, the State of Delaware and Eastern Pennsylvania as well as New Jersey.
The NJ Sand Hill Band of Lenape & Cherokee Indians (the Sand Hill) headed by Chief Yonaguska Holloway has appealed to the UN for assistance. The UN is now representing the tribe and the case may actually move to The Hague if the tribe does not get justice through the American courts and through negotiations with the United States.
Judge Hayden, the Federal Judge who allegedly has been stalling this trial since last year, has taken early retirement, although no one involved in the case has been formally notified.
It’s rumored that the Federal government has finally stepped in, but they have not reached out directly to Chief Holloway. As the Federal government appears to drag their feet and avoid the inevitable negotiating table, the stakes are getting bigger.
The Sand Hill are using this time to gather the evidence they need to make their case that much more ironclad. Just over the past few months they have gathered more evidence of their claim not only to NJ but Manhattan, Delaware, and Eastern PA.
What began as a lawsuit in one state is morphing into the largest land claim ever made by Native Americans and is precedent-setting for the rest of the Indian Nations. The problem confronting the Federal Government appears to be their inability to figure out how to even begin approaching this matter with the Sand Hills.
The ridiculousness of the situation is that a simple sit-down with President Obama over iced tea and pizza could go a long way towards resolving what is turning into a territorial crisis for the United States.
The Sand Hill are a patient and reasonable people, but everyone has a limit. Justice delayed is justice denied, and as their rights have been trampled ever since they reached out a hand to Henry Hudson 400 year ago, their patience is now wearing thin.
It appears that the sheer magnitude of the situation is preventing any progress at all. But like any other overwhelming problem, resolutions often begin with a simple conversation.
So far, only one NJ Congressman’s office (Congressman Steve Rothman) has had the foresight to contact representatives of the Sand Hill after Chief Holloway’s speech at the United Nations. On three separate occasions thereafter, the Sand Hill Government Liaison contacted Rothman’s office. The last time was to notify the Congressman of the latest filing and to request a meeting with him. As of this writing there has been no acknowledgement of receiving either the motion or the request.
It might behoove the Congressman, as this is an election year, to get ahead of the situation, and score a political coup by meeting with Chief Holloway as a first step towards getting the Federal Government to the table without pressure from the United Nations.
I am seriously advising my elected officials to meet with Chief Holloway while his hand is still outstretched. I have interviewed Chief Holloway about this many times over the past two years. He has always been and still is willing to discuss this matter with the appropriate Federal officials in order to reach a reasonable conclusion.