Documents: Anti-Redskins Indian leader not a legitimate member of his tribe

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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The American Indian leader spearheading the campaign to change the name of the Washington Redskins is not a legitimate member of the tribe he leads, according to a New York State Assemblywoman, but rather an Obama crony who is raking in casino money and paying back only small stipends to his tribe members.

Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, who is also the CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises, is not recognized in his position by the Grand Council of Chiefs governing the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. Halbritter is not a legitimate member of the Oneida tribe, Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney told The Daily Caller.

“He is not even technically an Oneida. There is not a drop of Oneida in him,” Tenney said.

Halbritter traces his lineage back to a woman who lived on traditional Iroquois Confederacy land, but as a non-member of the Six Nations.

A microcopy of 1885-1940 Indian Census Rolls from the National Archives of the United States, obtained by The Daily Caller, disputes Halbritter’s claim to have one-fourth Oneida blood on his mother’s side. The Oneida Indian Nation of New York determines membership by matrilineal descent and requires “a blood quantum of 1/4 degree,” according to its constitution, submitted to a former official of the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1994.

The document lists Lucy Carpenter, Halbitter’s great-great grandmother on the “Census of Indians residing upon the Oneida Reservation who do not belong to the Six Nations.”

Many Indians whose families left New York attempted to get back into the Six Nations during this period to take advantage of various treaties.

Lucy Carpenter’s daughter Christina Cornelius, born in Canada, had a daughter in New York named Mary Cornelius, who later married and changed her name to “Mary Winder” and had a daughter in New York named Gloria Winder, who went on to have a son with a man named “Ramon Halbritter.” That son was Arthur “Ray” Halbritter, the current Representative of the Oneida Nation, according to documents obtained by TheDC.

Halbritter ancestor Lucy Carpenter’s expulsion from the Six Nations, according to the 1885-1940 Census Rolls, invalidates Halbritter’s claim to one-fourth Oneida heritage on his mother’s side, according to Tenney.

“He has no ancestry in the Six Nations but he has a lot of powerful friends in D.C.,” Tenney said.

Halbritter attended a January 27, 2012 fundraiser with President Obama in Washington, D.C. with 70 Indian leaders. The $15,000 to $35,800 fundraiser raised up to $2.5 million for Obama’s re-election campaign.

“The president was most gracious and kind in his remarks,” Halbritter said after the event to a media network owned by his nation’s company, noting that Obama is doing more to reach out to Indian tribes than any president in his experience.

Obama recently said that if he was the owner of the Redskins, he would “think about changing it [the team name].”

Halbritter also faces criticism about his relatively miniscule payments to members of his nation, in light of his company’s massive casino profits.

The Oneida Nation turned a $115 million profit in 2006, according to a report by University of Rochester professor Gregg Jarrell. Tenney claimed that Oneida annual revenue is now “really closer to $300 million.” The tribe directly  takes in “$8 to 9 million” per year in taxpayer money from federal and state governments for health care, according to Tenney.

But Oneida tribe members, who number between 450 and approximately 1,000 according to competing estimates, are only getting paid $4,000 per quarter, or $16,000 per year, according to a source.

By contrast, the Seminole tribe in Florida takes in approximately $500 million in revenue and pays its approximately 3,300 members about $84,000 per year, a considerably higher rate than in Halbritter’s Oneida Nation.

When a tribe member told Halbritter that the nation needed assistance and questioned the “validity” of building an RV park and a hotel, Halbritter replied, “It is your decision. If you all want to split the money and distribute it then, that can be done. As a result though, we will have no future business adventures, or new buildings built,” according to April 17, 1994 Turtle Clan Meeting minutes obtained by TheDC.

Halbritter‘s pro-gambling, profit-driven mentality has been a divisive presence in his own tribe for decades. Originally appointed by his aunt, wolf clan mother Maisie Shenandoah, as one of three temporary Oneida representatives to the Grand Council of Chiefs in the 1980s, Halbritter eventually became the sole representative following the deaths of his two counterparts.

Halbritter’s gaming compact with then-New York governor Mario Cuomo in 1993, which allowed for the opening of the profitable Turning Stone Casino in Verona, was not voted on by Oneida members, some of whom feel that gambling is a violation of traditional Iroquois Confederacy law.

In 1993, the Grand Council of Chiefs of the Six Nation Confederacy removed Halbritter from his position as Oneida representative, but the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which initially upheld the decision, changed course and re-instated Halbritter after coaxing from then-U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, who backed Indian casino development in his New York home district.

Boehlert, a Republican, leveraged his political capital to get Halbritter that recognition by holding out on his vote regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) supported by then-President Clinton, records reveal.

“‘A good case’ could be made that timing of Federal recognition of Ray Halbritter as representative for the Oneida Nation just days before was related to his holding out on NAFTA, he said,” according to a November 7, 1997 article on Boehlert in the “Rome Daily Sentinel.”

Halbritter’s status as Representative is still not recognized by the Grand Council of Chiefs.

Conflict within the Oneida tribe only grew worse in subsequent years. In 2002, Maisie Shenandoah reportedly accused her nephew Halbritter of “operating under self-assumed authority.” The following year, Halbritter’s government ordered home evictions of dwellers on Oneida Nation land, including his own aunt Maisie.

Maisie Shenandoah’s daughter Diane called her mother’s eviction “a disgrace.”

The Oneida Indian Nation did not return a request for comment.

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