Tribal court delays eviction

Tom Wanamaker
10/31/03

ONEIDA NATION HOMELANDS, N.Y. - The Oneida Nation Tribal Court has granted a temporary stay in an ongoing housing dispute, allowing four families to remain, for now, in trailer homes slated for demolition. The court had previously ordered the families' eviction by Oct. 26, upholding a tribal order to raze the trailers.

Judge Richard Simons announced on Oct. 24 that the eviction order will not be enforced, giving lawyers representing the tribe and the residents more time to negotiate and settle the matter.

The trailers in question are located on Territory Road, south of the city of Oneida, on a 32-acre parcel that for many years was the last remnant of ancestral land controlled by the Oneida Nation. They had been cited for numerous housing code violations, including inadequate structural support, leaking water and sewer lines, leaky roofs, and inadequate heating and electrical systems.

The trailers' owners are adamant in their desire to remain in their current homes. They see the potential eviction as punishment for their opposition to the federally recognized government of the Oneida Nation of New York. Among those facing eviction are Maisie Shenandoah, Native Representative Ray Halbritter's aunt, and two of her daughters. Maisie Shenandoah is a clan mother whose status is not recognized by the Nation's government.

A trailer owned by Danielle Shenandoah Patterson, another of Maisie's daughters, was razed in 2002 for similar code violations. Homes of other community members have also required demolition, while yet others have either passed inspection or required upgrades.

A statement released by Oneida Nation officials said they were obligated to ensure Territory residents do not live in unsafe or unsanitary housing. They said the initial housing inspections, which occurred in 2001, were part of an ongoing program to improve living conditions.

"Claims in the media that actions by the Nation are anything other than in the interest of public safety are unmitigated lies," according to the statement. The Nation's housing code is similar to those of surrounding municipalities.

Demolition had originally been slated for August. No new official date has been set.

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