EDITORIAL: Honor deal to install Native American murals on Northway

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo officially opened the Exit 3 southbound ramp Sunday
PHOTOGRAPHER:
New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo officially opened the Exit 3 southbound ramp Sunday

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

Is there something in the Constitution or something else somewhere in American jurisprudence that says if an American governmental body signs an agreement with a Native American tribe, it has to eventually renege on the deal?

Apparently.

Because otherwise, what possibly could be the reason why the state would go back on an agreement with three area Native American tribes to put up Native American murals on the Adirondack Northway (I-87) in exchange for granting access to land for a highway exit?

Back in 2016, when the state was negotiating with the tribes to construct an exit to the Albany International Airport on sacred Indian land, the state agreed to install large murals on the concrete supports for the Northway overpasses near the exit, in full view of motorists.

Seems like a pretty good deal for the state, frankly. A convenient highway bypass to the region’s major airport in exchange for … some signs?

Well, more than a year after Northway Exit 3 to the airport was constructed, the state still hasn’t put up the murals.

And now it’s offering an alternative plan in which the murals, already prepared and paid for, would be placed in a park-like path off the highway instead of right on the highway.

The alternative , the state argues, would be an even better deal for the Native Americans, in that it would include an informational kiosk that would provide users of the path with more information about Indian culture and its connection to the land on which the path sits.

But here’s the problem: On this alternative shared-use pathway, many fewer people would see the murals, and therefore many fewer people would be exposed to the contributions of Native Americans to the history and culture of New York.

One of the three tribes that occupied the area isn’t buying the alternative. They want the murals installed as promised.

The question is, why shouldn’t the state honor the agreement?

This is the same state that illegally put up ugly blue tourism signs along the highways. It certainly can honor an agreement to put up tasteful historical signs.

And if the state is so interested in promoting Native American culture, it can do that on the alternative path, as well as install the murals on the Northway.

The Native American tribes that occupied the region decades ago will benefit from the public exposure to their impact on the state’s history, and the state will have benefited by using traditional Indian land to provide convenient motorist access to the airport.

The bottom line is that a deal’s a deal. With Native Americans, that usually doesn’t seem to matter.

But in this situation, there’s no reason for the state not to uphold its end of the bargain.

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