Oneida Indian Nation is the tiny tribe taking on the NFL and Dan Snyder over Redskins name
Department of Justice.
everybody waiting for you guys, the caller Timmy Jernigan Ravens Jersey pleaded.
know it, but we just can go. We have orders that we cannot go. Justice Department would later order the city of Oneida to provide police and fire services to the Indian territory and to work toward lessening the tensions with the tribe that had grown so intense that local officials said they feared for the safety of first responders and the town mayor had issued an order for them to stay off the territory. But by then, as Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter tells it, his aunt and uncle had died and the tribe had come to a realization: They were on their own.
the fire, at least for me, I believed we had to do something for ourselves, said Halbritter, standing one recent afternoon not far from where a business empire grew out of the fire ashes.
The multimillion dollar Turning Stone Resort Casino, about 30 miles east of Syracuse, transformed the Oneida Indian Nation from a tribe unable to save its own members into a financial and political powerhouse willing to take on the National Football League and the billionaire owner of Washington football team on behalf of Native Americans.
How a 900 member tribe in central New York came to wage a fight to pressure the Washington Redskins to change its name is, in many ways, an American success story. But it is also one fraught with internal dissension, bitter legal battles and decades of controversy, much of it centered on Halbritter, a Harvard educated former iron worker respected by many and reviled by others.
In recent weeks, Halbritter has met with NFL executives, members of Congress and his local religious leaders about the team name, explaining why he believes the word is a racial slur that needs to go. On Tuesday, he sat beside President Obama during a meeting of a dozen tribal leaders at the White House and thanked him for his remarks on the name issue.
Halbritter, 63, is not the first Native American to object to the team name, but he has become one of the most prominent, attracting a new level of acclaim and criticism in the process. Supporters hail him as a great leader who has pulled his people out of poverty and is defending their image. Opponents condemn him as an opportunist who has amassed a fortune at the expense of others.
What none of them dispute is that he is a formidable adversary who has faced tough fights before.
Two days C.J. Mosley Ravens Jersey before meeting with the NFL, Halbritter stood in front of a room of Native Americans from 26 tribes and mentioned the fire in a speech.
learned what means through my family and specifically, through the experience of seeing them left to die by a local fire department that didn think it was their responsibility to help us because we are Native Americans, he said. saw us not as individual human beings or fellow Americans, but as people that didn deserve to be treated as equals. They saw us as redskins. casino fortune
Turning Stone comes into view even before drivers exit the New York State Thruway.
The casino was the first to open in the state in 1993, but over the years, it has built itself into more than just a place to gamble. Its golf courses have hosted PGA tournaments; its concert hall attracts big name bands. 33: The Party Starts Here, declare banners along the grounds, touting the new $33 million entertainment complex featuring a barbecue restaurant and dance hall straight out of a Texas town and a nightclub that would impress even a Miami crowd.
Dan Jones, who heads VIP services at the casino resort, said Halbritter likes to tell a story about how when he purchased the land, the farmer who owned it said it was some of the most fertile in the area. Ray tells this story, he usually smiles and says, still some of http://www.ravensofficialonlinestore.com/Timmy_Jernigan_Jersey_Ravens the most fertile farmland, Jones said.
The question is: How fertile? The Oneida Nation does not publicly share its financial information. Even so, there have been glimpses over the years that annual casino revenue ranges between $200 million and $400 million. In documents the Nation sent potential investors for a casino expansion in 2002 that were obtained by the Post Standard of Syracuse, it reported total revenue of more than $232 million at Turning Stone. This year, in a landmark agreement with the state, the Oneidas agreed to give 25 percent of their net gambling revenue from slot machines to the state, or an estimated $50 million, New York officials announced.
But that is only part of the Oneida empire, which Halbritter presides over as chief executive as well as tribal representative.
In addition to an animation company and the Indian Country Today Media Network, the tribe owns a chain of gas www.ravensofficialonlinestore.com/Cj_Mosley_Jersey_Ravens stations, with convenience stores that sell cigarettes the Oneidas manufacture free of state taxes. It also has become a political player, spending more than $3.2 million on lobbying and making $257,000 in political contributions between 2005 and mid 2012, according to a Common Cause/NY report. Last year, Halbritter donated $5,000 to Obama reelection campaign and almost $31,000 to the Republican National Committee.
Under the agreement reached in May with New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), the tribe would pay a percentage of its casino revenue to surrounding jurisdictions and the state would ensure the Oneidas a monopoly on casino gambling between Syracuse and Albany. It also would end scores of land claim lawsuits against the tribe, freeing the federal government to take 25,000 acres into trust for the Nation, making parts of Oneida and Madison counties Indian territory.
The pact has already met some resistance just as an agreement two decades earlier between the tribe and the state did. That deal between Halbritter and Cuomo father, former governor Mario Cuomo, allowed the Oneidas to open their casino without sharing any revenue with the state.
In a recent interview, the elder Cuomo said he saw Indian gambling as a way to remedy centuries of unfair treatment at the hands of the federal and state government.
didn have hospitals. They didn have schools, said Cuomo, who grew up in one of New York City poorest neighborhoods. felt I could understand their plight. They had nothing. what ultimately swayed the governor was Halbritter. came to us, Cuomo said, made the case in our language. was a language Halbritter learned relatively late in life. The son of a nurse and grandson of an influential Oneida clan mother, he became an iron worker, laboring at one point in the underbelly of Washington Metro system. He was in his 20s when he moved into a trailer on the Oneida 32 acre territory and was designated a representative of the matrilineal tribe. He attended college in his 30s, first Syracuse University and then Harvard Law School, graduating from the latter in 1990, the same year Obama became the law review first black president.
Harvard classmate Heather Kendall Miller, who is also a Native American, recalled seeing Halbritter, by then a father of six, standing at a public phone taking care of tribal business.
I left here, I sort of wasn thinking of coming back, Halbritter said. there was so much need, so many issues. was just before exams when he received word that a newly built bingo hall had burned down after a brief siege by dissident tribe members. They had accused Halbritter and others of misappropriating some of the $7 million to $8 million that the bingo hall brought in each year. Asked about those claims, Halbritter reiterated what prosecutors found at the time: There was no evidence to justify them.
Construction started on Turning Stone even before the state approved a casino, Halbritter said. It now attracts 4.5 million visitors a year and employs 4,500 people. It is also a source of tension, both inside the tribe by those who describe Halbritter as a dictator and outside by those who have seen the financial benefit flowing in only one direction.
Former Republican state assemblyman David R. Townsend Jr. said he was originally an enthusiastic backer of the casino, which promised to create jobs in a region that had gotten used to losing them. But the businesses that flourished along the periphery of the casino were almost entirely tribe owned. Non Indian businesses, he complained, found it hard to survive against competitors that paid no taxes.
Once welcomed on the Indian Territory, Townsend said he eventually found himself turned away by the police force that now patrols it.
Halbritter has become a wealthy man, with some claiming he a billionaire a status he denies.
But his critics say not all Oneidas have flourished alongside him. Tribe members tell of receiving stipends of $16,000 a year, but only if Halbritter approves them.
you engage in what Halbritter considers an act of dissent or ask for an accounting audit of what the casino makes, then you systematically stripped of all of your membership, said Doug George Kanentiio, the co founder of the Native American Journalists Association who is married to Halbritter first cousin, Grammy award winning singer Joanne Shenandoah. answers to no one, he added.