Review: Cayuga Land Claim Leaves Landowners in Limbo | Story
September 29, 1996
(No article from September 28, 1996)
CAYUGA – Joan Westfall’s face froze in shock. Her husband, Robert, sat in a chair shaking his head in disbelief after hearing the scope of the Cayuga Indian land claim.
At the same time, their grandson, Adam, was resting on the porch looking out at West Genesee Street Road.
For the past 26 years, the Westfall family has been linked to Cayuga Lake and the surrounding area. Robert and Joan met in a restaurant between Waterloo and Geneva. They raised three children in a house in Fayette. They moved to Varick and then eventually moved to the east side of Cayuga Lake.
But now, a seemingly endless litigation leaves the Westfalls and 7,000 other landowners in Cayuga and Seneca counties in a state of limbo.
The Indians want 64,000 acres returned to them in both counties. They are also seeking $ 350 million in damages for trespassing and eviction of the current occupants.
“It’s hard to believe this would ever happen,” said Joan, 66. “It would be like a nightmare. I can’t imagine that ever happening.”
Joan’s nightmare is the reconquest of land in Cayuga and Seneca counties by two groups of Indians. The Cayuga Indians of New York and the Seneca Indians of Oklahoma rightly claim the west-central area of Cayuga County and an area of Seneca County along Cayuga Lake.
– Compiled by David Wilcox