Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Seneca Nation of Indians v. New York

ELR Citation: 34 ELR 20096
Nos. Nos. 02-6185(L) et al., (2d Cir., 09/09/2004)

The Second Circuit affirmed a lower court decision that New York's purchase of the Niagara River islands from the Seneca Nation of Indians in 1815 did not violate the Non-Intercourse Act, which bars conveyances by Indians to non-Indians unless ratified by Congress. Although the transaction was not approved by Congress, it did not violate the Non-Intercourse Act because New York already had title to the islands when it ostensibly purchased them from the Senecas. Prior to 1815, the Senecas' aboriginal title was extinguished by one of two treaties. The 1764 Treaties of Peace between Great Britain and the Senecas transferred title to the islands from the Senecas to Britain, which passed to New York after the American Revolutionary War. In the alternative, the 1784 Treaty of Fort Stanwix extinguished the Senecas' title and passed it to New York. And the 1794 Treaty of Canadaigua between the United States and the Senecas did not transfer the islands back to the Senecas; thus, New York's title remained undisturbed by that treaty.