Allegations concerning the sexual abuse of young girls on the Tuscarora reservation by individuals linked to the powerful "Gang of Four" ruling clique there continue, despite efforts to sweep the matter under the rug.
Numerous Tuscaroras have come forward to identify two male members of a family related by blood to at least one of the Gang of Four in connection with an ongoing pattern of sexual abuse stretching back at least 30 years and continuing to the present day.
The Gang of Four, which controls nearly every aspect of life on the reservation, consists of tribal Clerk Leo Henry, Neil Patterson Sr. and his son Neil Patterson Jr., and their legal counsel, Kendra Winkelstein, a Grand Island attorney who is not Native American but who sits in on Tribal Council meetings that even respected Clan Mothers are forbidden to attend.
Ken Dougherty, a former Niagara County Sheriff's deputy and accredited counselor for those suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, says he became aware of the allegations a few years ago when several Tuscarora women came to him for help in dealing with sexual abuse that occurred to them as children.
Because of confidentiality and ethical standards, Dougherty said he could not give the names of the women, but said they all told fundamentally the same story.
A powerful Tuscarora man, now getting up in his years, raped and abused the women as young girls when they were between the ages of 11 and 16, he said.
"We're talking about an evil man," Dougherty said. "It's kind of surprising no one's shot him yet."
In fact, Dougherty said, the father of one of the girls in question had to be physically restrained after he took off after the alleged perpetrator with a shotgun.
"He was lucky that day, and he's stayed lucky."
The women waited years before coming forward with their allegations because of the perpetrator's close ties to those in the Tuscarora government, Dougherty added.
"They didn't say anything out of fear," he said. "Fear that they would be removed from the rolls, that their parents would be removed from the rolls, losing their property, or not having the ability to buy property."
Indeed, removal from the rolls of the Tuscarora Nation is a harsh punishment that the Gang of Four has regularly used with impunity. Aside from property seizures, those taken off the rolls can be denied the most basic human services, such as health care, electrical service to their place of residence, the ability to dig a well or install a septic tank on their own property, or even to have their children educated at the Tuscarora school.
Concerning the most recent allegations, which center on sexual molestation of young girls at the Tuscarora Health Clinic by a member of the same family, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center spokesman Pat Bradley told the Niagara Falls Reporter that the hospital has launched its own investigation.
NFMMC administers the program at the Tuscarora Health Clinic.
"We're aware of the identity of this individual and have determined he was not one of our employees," Bradley said. "Still, these allegations are so serious that we're doing everything in our power to determine what exactly is going on."
Sources on the reservation, where the current allegations were the topic of a meeting at the Health Clinic in September, say that one of the victims is the niece of the alleged perpetrator.
Once again, they add, the primary factor in the victims and their families not stepping forward is the fear of retribution on the part of tribal leadership.
The Gang of Four has a history of secretive dealings and coverups that would never be tolerated in an open society.
Together, Henry, the Pattersons and Winkelstein have kept secret the full amount of the 2007 state Power Authority relicensing settlement ($100 million), the amount received from the Power Authority thus far ($12.5 million), and the amount of money they pay themselves (nobody knows).
The Pattersons receive considerable additional funding from state and federal environmental agencies for their private company, the Tuscarora Environmental Program, and they along with Henry recently spent $7 million building a new community center appraised at $2 million.
Neil Patterson Sr. received $87,000 for three months' "work" as a consultant on that project, despite a total lack of credentials or experience in construction work, and the land where the community center sits was leased or purchased from Henry for an unknown sum.
Henry had previously used the site as a resting place for his favorite outhouse.
The Gang of Four has postponed all tribal business at least until February, so Henry can winter in Bradenton, Fla. Neil Patterson Jr. is said to be spending less and less of his time on the reservation as well, preferring to stay at the lavish new home he built for himself near Syracuse.
But subpoenas issued in a class action, civil RICO lawsuit being prepared by prominent Niagara Falls attorney John Bartolomei on behalf of numerous Tuscaroras may shed some light on the ultimate fate of millions of dollars earmarked by the state and federal governments for the benefit of the Tuscarora people, as well as any possible coverup of child sexual abuse being perpetrated by powerful members of the tribe with links to the current leadership.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Dec. 6, 2011|