Ray Halbritter is suddenly everywhere, giving interviews denouncing the Washington based team, even though his own base is in New York. He’ll even meet with the NFL to begin the process of pressuring the Redskins into changing their name.
Media accounts dub Ray Halbritter a representative for the Oneida Indian Nation. The reality is a good deal more complex.
The Oneida, Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, Tuscarora, and Seneca nations are autonomous members of the Six Nation Confederacy (the Haudenosaunee). The Oneida are about 1000 people (450 adults) in central New York.
And that’s with a blood quantum level requirement of 1/4 so that you only need 1/4 blood to be a member of the Oneida tribe. Which is to say that most of the Oneidas are probably more white than Native American.
In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the Oneidas were the rightful owners of 872 acres that they had claimed in a test case.
According to Haudenosaunee tradition, the Oneida clan mothers of the wolf, bear, and turtle clans select the chiefs who represent the Oneida nation on the Grand Council of Chiefs, which oversees the Six Nation Confederacy.
But during much of the 1970s and 1980s, the New York Oneidas were beset by leadership conflicts. In the mid-1980s, in an effort to reestablish a traditional form of government, wolf clan mother Maisie Shenandoah selected three Oneida men as temporary representatives to the Grand Council of Chiefs. By the mid-1990s, two had died, leaving only Ray Halbritter, a talented Oneida businessman trained at Harvard.
In 1993, Mr. Halbritter negotiated a gaming compact for the Oneidas with New York governor Mario Cuomo and consequently built the highly profitable Turning Stone Casino in central New York. This casino became the cornerstone of an expansive Oneida business enterprise that now includes a chain of gas stations, a textile factory, and a luxury hotel. The business is incorporated as the Oneida Indian Nation of New York, Inc. with Ray Halbritter as its CEO.
So yes, Ray Halbritter is a representative of the Oneida Indian Nation. But it’s the Oneida Indian Nation Inc. It’s a company with gas stations, a hotel and a casino.
How legitimate is Ray Halbritter’s leadership considering that he basically stepped into a leadership vacuum and cashed in on legal gambling?
Mr. Halbritter’s initiatives have been criticized by some Oneidas, who say he has violated the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee by embracing gambling. They also fault him for selecting his own clan mothers and for creating a “men’s council,” both unheard of practices in Haudenosaunee tradition.
In 1993, the Grand Council of Chiefs removed Mr. Halbritter as the Oneida wolf clan representative and notified the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) that he no longer represented the Oneida people. The decision was accepted by the BIA, only to be reversed 24 hours later, reportedly under pressure from Sherwood Boehlert, the U.S. congressional representative for the area and a casino supporter.
Today the U.S. government but not the Grand Council of Chiefs gives official recognition to the Oneida Indian Nation with Ray Halbritter as its representative.
So Ray Halbritter is the head of a company recognized not by a tribal council, but by the United States government. This entire thing wound its way through the courts…
On February 13, 1996, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and local counsel filed suit on behalf of the Oneida Nation of New York against the U.S. Department of the Interior, charging that the government violated the Oneidas’ national sovereignty.
The suit alleged that the Department refused to recognize a legitimate decision by the Nation and the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee, Six Nations Confederacy, to remove Arthur Raymond Halbritter from his claimed position as sole leader of the Nation and representative to the U.S. government.
The Oneida members requested an injunction ordering federal agencies to recognize the removal of Halbritter and to rescind any agreement made by Halbritter after his removal. The members also demanded an accounting of all its proceeds from 1987 to the present and an injunction that would prevent Halbritter from expending any Nation funds. Lastly, the suit asserted that the federal agency violated their civil rights guaranteed under the Indian Civil Rights Act.
That’s the same Arthur Raymond Halbritter who is now putting on a full court press against the Redskins on behalf of Oneida Indian Nation Enterprises.
Which Oneidas does he actually represent? He has more employees than tribe members and he’s vocally opposed by actual members of the tribe, including the family of the woman who appointed him.
Against the wishes of the Confederacy, and without knowledge of the Oneida people, a Casino deal was struck between ex-Governor Cuomo and so-called Oneida Nation “CEO” Arthur Raymond Halbritter in 1993. The compact was never ratified by the Oneidas. Using money borrowed by Halbritter from the Key Bank of Central NY ( the CEO mortgaged Oneida land without our knowledge) “The Turning Stone Casino” was built in Oneida, NY. The Casino was built on wetlands in violation of both US and Haudenosaunee laws. Because Halbritter violated Haudenosaunee rules he was removed from his position as an Oneida spokesperson in May, 1993…
The Oneida people were completely unaware that any transactions for land, a casino, or lawsuits against 20,000 land owners would ensue. To date, the Oneida people who have opposed these decisions continue to be threatened with on-going human, civil and religious rights violations and are in present danger of losing their homes on the Oneida Indian Territory.
Under the guise of a “beautification program”, the leadership has authorized a mock tribal court system to prosecute all those who stand up for their rights as Haudenosaunee.
A 54 man, completely non-Native “Oneida Nation Police” force acting on the direct orders of Halbritter has harassed, intimidated and physically assaulted Oneida people on their own territory.
That’s the creature heading up the shakedown of the Redskins.