Published on October 5, 2013 by Amy
St. Regis Mohawk Reservation is a Mohawk Indian reservation in Franklin County, New York, United States. It is also known by its Mohawk name, Akwesasne. The population was 3,288 at the 2010 census. The reservation is adjacent to the Akwesasne reserve in Ontario and Quebec. The Mohawk consider the entire community to be one unit. The reservation contains the villages of Hogansburg and St. Regis.
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Under the terms of the Jay Treaty (1794), the Mohawk people may pass freely across the Canada–United States border. The two parts of the reservation are separated by the St. Lawrence River and the 45th parallel.
The Mohawk are one of the original Five Nations of the Iroquois, historically based in present-day New York, and the “Keepers of the Eastern Door”.
The reservation adopted gambling in the 1980s. It has caused deep controversy. Broadly speaking, the elected chiefs and the Warrior Society have supported gambling, while the traditional chiefs have opposed it. Today, the reservation is home to the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino and the Mohawk Bingo Palace.
The elected tribal governments on the New York and Canadian sides and the traditional chiefs of Akwesasne often work together as a “Tri-Council” concerning areas of shared interest, for example to negotiate land claims settlements.
The Mohawk Tribe views the reservation as a “sovereign nation,” but shares jurisdiction with the State of New York, the United States, and the Town of Bombay, in which it is located.
The reservation is at the international border of Canada and the United States along the St. Lawrence River.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the Indian reservation has a total area of 21.0 mi² (54.3 km²). 19.0 mi² (49.2 km²) of it is land and 2.0 mi² (5.1 km²) of it (9.45%) is water. It is bordered by the Towns of Fort Covington, Bombay, Brasher, and Massena, and by the Akwesasne Indian Reserve. The nearest city is Cornwall, Ontario, which lies a short distance to the northwest, across the Akwesasne Reserve.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,699 people, 904 households, and 668 families residing in the Indian reservation within the US boundary. The population density was 142.2/mi² (54.9/km²). There were 977 housing units at an average density of 51.5/mi² (19.9/km²). The racial makeup of the Indian reservation was 97.41% Native American, 2.07% White, 0.07% from other races, and 0.44% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.74% of the population.
There were 904 households out of which 44.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.9% were married couples living together, 23.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.0% were non-families. 22.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.97 and the average family size was 3.44.
In the Indian reservation, the population was spread out with 34.1% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 30.8% from 25 to 44, 18.1% from 45 to 64, and 7.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 98.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.2 males.
The median income for a household in the Indian reservation was $32,664, and the median income for a family was $34,336. Males had a median income of $27,742 versus $21,774 for females. The per capita income for the Indian reservation was $12,017. About 19.4% of families and 22.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.3% of those under age 18 and 14.9% of those age 65 or over.
This reservation has allegedly become a center for smuggling of many items, including liquor, cigarettes and drugs. Federal agencies of the United States and Canada and those of the New York State government are collaborating to stop this activity. These allegations have been hotly contested by Akwesasne police and government spokespersons. The chief of the Akwesasne Mohawk police has suggested that Akwesasne has been singled out for criticism when the smuggling problems stretch across the entire US-Canada border.
New York state has threatened to collect sales tax from sales of gasoline and cigarettes on the reservations but has not done so. The legislature often passes such a resolution. New York state citizens fail to report their applicable Use Taxes; this has become a problem both here and at areas surrounding other Indian reservations across New York. Merchants near the reservations complain that the tax-free sales constitute an unfair advantage for Indian-owned businesses. People on the reservation tend to respond that this is the only advantage they have. While the government officials argue, a Zogby poll commissioned in 2006 for the Mohawks’ allies, the Seneca, showed that 79% of New York residents did not think sales taxes should be collected from reservation sales.
The original settlement was known as Saint Régis, presumably after the Catholic saint of the same name and was founded by Catholic Native American Iroquois from Caughnawaga Quebec in about 1755.
Although not directly named, the reservation is the setting for the 2008 movie Frozen River. It depicts smuggling of illegal immigrants by Mohawk and associated Americans across the international border between Canada and the U.S. The film was made in Plattsburgh, New York.
The reservation was the setting for a Tom Swift children’s book series (1910–1941).