LEWISTON – The dispute is over a strip of land where there are no houses and no roads. But the decades-long slight has rankled leaders of the Tuscarora Nation and on Monday night, the Lewiston Town Board pledged to help them in a boundary dispute with the federal government.
In a special meeting with leaders from the Tribal Council – Kenneth Patterson, Neil Patterson and Chief Leo Henry – the Town Board agreed that a narrow slip of land on the reservation, the southwest corner between Garlow and Walmore roads, appeared to have been redrawn at some point without consulting the Tuscarora Nation.
Councilman and attorney Alfonso Bax volunteered to work with the nation’s attorney to attempt to resolve the matter with the federal government.
“I have researched the maps and there is a discrepancy in the maps that go back historically,” Bax said. “We need a joint letter between ourselves with the backing of our state leaders to get some attention federally.”
Bax said there is a notched line on one map, but on earlier maps there is a straight line.
“I understand now that the principal here is much greater than the actual property,” Bax told the leaders, who agreed. “From the town’s perspective, we support you.”
Supervisor Steven Reiter said the Town Board has been making a greater effort to improve relations with the Tribal Council with regular meetings twice a year, both at the Town Hall and on the Tuscarora Reservation.
The board voted 4-0, with Councilman Ernest Palmer absent, to appoint Bax as their representative to work with the nation’s attorney on the matter.
The board also discussed plans to repair a town pump station on Chew Road on Tuscarora Reservation property. Reiter said the repairs would be done within the rules of the Tuscarora Nation. He said one of two pumps is already broken at the site and repairs would benefit both the nation and town residents.
“We’d like to show good faith and right the wrong,” said Reiter of their work to help redraw the map.
Kenneth Patterson, who has advocated for 20 years to return the strip of land, said, “How many wrongs do you want to right?”
“One at a time,” Reiter said.
The board also met in regular session following their special meeting and approved bonds for $1.3 million for road construction and $450,000 for two new plows. Highway Superintendant Douglas Janese said these trucks have a life- span of 15 years or less, while the town’s trucks are 22 to 23 years old.
Janese said after the meeting that of two of the roads that will definitely be repaired are Bridgeman Road in Sanborn and Swann Road. He said Swann Road, at five miles long, is one of the longest roads in the town and that, between the two roads, a total of seven miles of highway will be repaired. Other unspecified roads will also be part of the project, according to the Town Board.
The board also approved a change order of $129,116 to extend the new sewer line on Saunders Settlement Road in Sanborn from West Street to Bridgeman Road. Town Engineer Ryan Smith said a few houses on the south side of the road would not be included because of rocky ground in the area, but should be included within the next year when Niagara County does planned road work in the area.