BIA recognizes elected three-chief Mohawk government

St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, New York (AP) 11-07

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs has determined that it will recognize the current, elected three-chief government of the St. Regis Mohawk tribe.

The ruling by Eastern Region Director Franklin Keel means that the United States will conduct its government-to-government business with the three-chief government, which has been in power since 1996. Keel’s November decision was the third time in the past 11 years that the bureau has decided on the Mohawk leadership dispute.

In 1996, the bureau decided it would recognize the so-called Constitutional Tribal Council as the valid government of St. Regis, which straddles the U.S.-Canadian border in northern New York.

The Constitutional government had been approved by a disputed referendum vote in June 1995. However, the following year, St. Regis residents revoked the tribal constitution and voted to return to the three-chief system that had been in place prior to 1995.

In 2000, the BIA reversed itself and cast its recognition to the elected chiefs.

Both the 1996 and 2000 decisions were found to be defective by two different federal courts, which sent the dispute back to the BIA for further administrative action.