The Seneca Nation has filed a lawsuit against New York State over the operation of the Thruway on the Cattaraugus Reservation.

The section being disputed is a roughly three-mile portion between exit 57A (Eden-Angola) and exit 58 (Silver Creek).

The Seneca Nation claims that the state broke federal laws more than 60 years ago.

“After decades of seeing our property invaded without authorization from the federal government that is required to protect our Native land, we find it necessary to take legal action against these State officials,” Seneca Nation President Todd Gates said. “We are not seeking to cause any disruption, but rather to ensure that the New York State authorities comply with federal law and gain approval from the Department of Interior for the thruway that encroaches on 300 acres of land that has belonged to the Nation and our ancestors for generations.”

The dispute goes back to the 1954 easement for the Thruway.

Lawyers claim federal approval to build a section of the Thruway was never granted.

The NYS Thruway Authority responded, saying “We can’t comment on pending litigation but it’s well established that the Seneca Nation granted an easement for the Thruway in 1954. We have defended that position in the past and will continue to do so going forward.”

“Whatever the outcome of our legal action,” said President Gates, “my hope is that the Nation will be able to put the issue behind us and move forward with needed economic development on our Cattaraugus Territory, like the Oasis Project.”

News 4 spoke with Gates. Watch the interview below: