An armed band of Mohawk Indians, who for three years have forceably occupied a 612-acre state-owned camp in the Adirondack Mountains, formally received the right to 5,700 acres of public parkland today in an unprecedented settlement of a treaty dispute.
Both sides claimed that it was the first time any government officials below the federal level have ever turned over a large tract of land to Indian claimants to settle a treaty quarrel.
In a news conference in the lower Manhattan offices of New York's Secretary of Sotate Mario Cuomo, a spokesman for the militant group of Canadian Mohawks said they would establish a "model traditional Indian community" as the sole means of compensating the state for giving up the land.
In exchange, the Mohawks agreed to abandon their encampment at Moss Lake, about 75 miles north of Utica, N.Y., in the Adirondacks, and end a confrontation with townspeople that has led to numerous clashes and the wounding by gunfire of two passers-by.
Three years ago to the day, the Indians came down from Canada and seized at gunpoint an idyllic former girsl's campt that once was appraised at $1.3 million.
The camp, once the summer retreat for the children of the Roosevelt and Rockfeller families, included lavish year-round houses, indoor riding rings, gymnasiums and spacious cabins.
Faced with recollections of the bloody confrontations at Wounded Knee, S.D., where Sioux Indians seized a community of similar size, authorities in New York decided to seek a peaceful solution. At the same time, they pressed an eviction procedure in the federal courts, apparently this is being abandoned in light of today's settlement.
For their part, the Mohawk Indians - who renamed the girls' camp "Ganienkeh," for "land of the Flint" - became emboldened by their successes. They subsequently claimed title of six million acres of land in upstate New York and Vermont, citing aboriginal rights and broken treaties.
Cuomo announced today that the state will provide the Indians 5,700 acres in Clinton County, in the northeast corner of New York just south of the Canadian border and several hundred miles form the current encampment. About 700 acres near Altona, including a small lake, will be included in the "traditional community" lease deal.
Another 5,000 acres of public property, near Schuyler Falls, will be given to the Mohawks under a revokable permit for use us farming and hunting grounds, Cuomo said. Additionally, the Mohawks have agreed to try to raise enough in public donations to buy additional acreage for living space.
Kakwirakeron, the chief Ganienkeh spokesman, said that the privately purchased living area would not ee open to the public, but that the group planned to establish an "educational center' on public land to provide tourists information about the American Indian movement. The remainder of the parklands, he said, would be used for hunting, fishing and farming by the Ganienkeh Indians.
Already, the attempt to relocate the Mohowks from Moss Lake to Altona and Schuyler Falls has been opposed by the local legislature of Clinton County, whose supervisor, Donald Garant, has refused to meet with state officials on the deal. He said the community will not welcome the Indians.
However, Cuomo and Kakwirakeron said today they thought the opposition could be overcome.
"There are bound to be some very vocal negativists with a high decibel count of opposition," Cuomo said. "We are prepared for that and we'll try ot deal with it. But I don't expect any serious problem with the Clinton people.
"It's time for Indians and whites to live together in peace. After all, it's been a long time."