Salamanca Lease Negotiation



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The history of the Seneca Nation in western New York dates back before western New York even existed. Throughout the 1700's and 1800's the Seneca land was gradually taken from the Seneca and incorporated into New York State. In 1842, the Buffalo Creek Treaty was signed leaving the lands of the Cattaragus and Allegany reservations to the Seneca Nation. In 1875, the U.S government approved leases on these reservation lands for non-Indian settlers. In 1890, the U.S Congress amended the 12 year leases to 99 year leases, to help the white settlers receive mortgages and loans, but also locking the Seneca nation into receiving extremely low rent payments for the land. These leases were set to expire in 1991. This collection, received from Michael Chiarello, deals with the discussions and negotiations that began in 1966 which is the first time the collection shows lease negotiations mentioned in the Salamanca Press. In 1969 the Salamanca Indian Lease Authority was established and lease talks began to take place. 1990 was the year that an agreement was made for a new lease, set for 40 years with an option to renew for another 40. The new 40/40 lease agreement sparked controversy amongst non-Seneca Salamanca residents as they felt they did not have a say in the negotiations. They were upset because their lease payments increased substantially, and there was also confusion over certain provisons in the new lease. In response to the perceived controversy concerning the lease, a citizen's group, the Salamanca Coalition of United Taxpayers (SCOUT), was formed in 1989. The main argument that members of SCOUT made was that they should be able to renew their 99 year lease instead of signing the new 40/40 agreement. SCOUT members and other citizens became upset at their increasing rent payments to the Seneca Nation of Indians. The controversy continued in 1992 when the Salamanca City Council decided to not pay the 1992 lease payment because they felt that the lease was unfair to non-Indian residents of Salamanca and unfair to the City of Salamanca. Ultimately the city paid the lease payment and the late charges incurred because of their actions, and the only people who got evicted as a result of the new lease and controversy were 16 residents who refused to sign a lease agreement and were evicted in 1997.

The Collection

This collection includes a variety of legal, government, and published materials compiled by Dr. Michael Chiarello, Ph.D, from St. Bonaventure University. Dr. Chiarello is a resident of Salamanca and served as chairman of the Joint Lease Committee (JLC) when it was created to handle disputes amongst lessees and the Seneca Nation. Having lived in Salamanca during the negotiation of the lease, and having first hand experience in the controversy after the 1990 agreement was signed, Dr. Chiarello and fellow Salamanca resident, JLC member, Bonaventure professor and Seneca Indian Dr. Randy John decided to record the history of the negotiation and controversy in a book that was to be titled When a Majority becomes a Minority. This book was meant to explain and record the history of the lease negotiations and the impact it had on the citizens of Salamanca and the Allegany reservation. The book was left unfinished and unpublished, but the collection of legal, government and published material is extensive and thorough in explaining the history of the region, the history of Salamanca-Seneca relations, legal issues concerning land claims and Indian affairs, and the actual materials from the governement organizations involved in negotiation the new lease agreement.

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Special Collection Index

This site was created by Ethan Coulter as part of a history internship in the Fall 2016 semester.


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For information about the Salamanca Lease Negotiation  collection contact:
telephone: 716.375.2322

Friedsam Memorial Library
St. Bonaventure University
St. Bonaventure, NY  14778  USA
(716) 375-2323 (general number)
(716) 375-2389  (fax)

Last updated:  10/17/16
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