“We are the victims of the horrific beating by the New York State Troopers “I-81 INDIAN Detail” special death squad on May 18, 1997. The court is trying to sidetrack us into procedural traps to get the case thrown out. The police video says it all. We weren’t on the road. The super armed cops invaded private property and beat us with wooden clubs. We want our day in court on the merits, not the procedures that are being set up to sideline us.”
— Kahentinetha Horn (Mohawk Nation), curator at Mohawk Nation News and victim of the NYS I-81 Indian Detail Attacks of 1997

UPDATE: 10/11/16 SYRACUSE, NY–– After 3 full days of deliberation a 9 person jury delivered their verdict rejecting the so-called "claims" ofthe Onondaga 15 ruling in favor of the state. The jury's decision upholds nearly 20 years of ongoing impunity for former-Major James Parlmley and the 52 NYS Troopers who can be seen assaulting Haudenosaunee people and local news media. The Onondaga 15 refuse to be silenced and maintain that the "I-81 Indian Detail" are guilty of excessive use of force and misconduct in the suppression of their free speech, violating their 1st and 4th amendment rights. The Onondaga 15 and their supporters are currently appealing the decision to the 'second circuit court'. This is NOT over.

overview of the trial

Jones Vs. Parmley was a civil suit brought forth by fifteen indigenous Haudenosaunee plaintiffs –commonly referred to as the #Onondaga15– against 52 state troopers part of the “I-81 Indian Detail” operating under the command of then-Major James Parmley. The trial pertained to an incident of mass police brutality that took place on May 18, 1997. On that day hundreds of militarized NYS Troopers operating as part of the “I-81 Indian Detail” attacked over 150 Haudenosaunee babies, children, women, men, Clan Mothers, and elders. The attack occurred on private and sovereign territory owned by the Jones family, which lay within the boundaries of the Onondaga Nation Reservation approximately 10 miles south of so-called Syracuse, NY.

After nearly twenty years of being strung along by the courts, and resisting ongoing repression and retaliation for speaking out, the Onondaga 15 finally stepped foot in a federal court on September 20, 2016 in Syracuse, NY. They were actively suppressed in their attempts to acquire legal representation and were forced to represent themselves “pro se” (without a lawyer). The plaintiffs are mostly elderly and disabled by the extensive injuries they endured from prolonged beatings at the hands of the “I-81 Indian Detail”.

The purpose of the trial was to determine whether James Parmley and 52 state troopers operating as a part of the “I-81 Indian Detail” are guilty of excessive use of force and misconduct in the suppression of free speech, violating 1st and 4th amendment rights. Contrary to the jury’s deliberation the evidence (much of it never allowed in court) speaks for itself.

IMPORTANT CONTEXT AND DETAILS ABOUT THE "1-81 Indian Detail" attacks & INCIDENT IN '97

May 19, 1997–– Families from all Six Nations of the Confederacy were gathered –– Onondaga, Mohawk, Oneida, Tuscarora, Cayuga, and Seneca. They were there to light a sacred fire –– an important ceremony in Haudenosaunee culture to call in the people — and to share traditional foods and support for one another. Most importantly, they were there to share information about corruption taking place at Onondaga Nation. The corruption involved an illegitimate power grab from a group of non-traditional, self-appointed "leaders" who had/have motives to destabilize and undermine traditional governance systems in direct violation of the The Great Law of Peace –– the oral constitution whereby the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy are bound together.

Those gathered there that day on the Jones’ family’s property to discuss and expose this corruption did so at the instruction of traditional Clan Mothers and tribal leadership. The group of non-traditional, self-appointed “leaders,” who had been working to usurp power and disrupt the traditional Onondaga governance systems, wanted to put down this dissent and silence the voice of the people. In retaliation for the people expressing their dissent this cabal of so-called leaders signed documents entering into a legal negotiation with the NYS Police, allowing then-Major Parmley and the “I-81 Indian Detail” onto the Onondaga reservation. This group of self-styled leaders was also in secret negotiations with New York State Governor George Pataki under the guise of their self-appointed “authority”.

The “I-81 Indian Detail” was comprised of more than 80 militarized state troopers in riot gear, armed with guns and nightsticks. The officers had removed their name tags and wore helmets over their faces, effectively concealing their identities. After marching down the road in formation under the direct orders of then-Major Parmley, the “I-81 Indian Detail” mercilessly charged the families gathered there, unleashing an indiscriminate attack with their batons, fists, and feet. The attack began just as a Clan Mother was leading a ceremony to open up the space in their traditional way.

Newspeople from at least three local news stations had been present that day at the request of the Onondaga People. The press had been asked to attend the gathering with cameras and recording devices to help document abuses and corruption happening against the Onondaga People. They had issued a media advisory in the form of a flier, which was being handed out to drivers passing by the Jones’ family’s property alongside highway 81. The troopers were ordered to clear everyone off their private property simply because of this alleged trespass. Newspeople documented that there was no blockade and that traffic had only been slowed by interested drivers who accepted the fliers, some even pulling over to hear more, and others giving waves and honks of support as they drove by. One cameraman was repeatedly harassed and badgered by Major Parmley, who demanded that he stop filming immediately. Parmley can be observed on film swiping at the cameraman’s camera and then arresting him, temporarily suppressing the footage.

The evidence that James Parmley and the state troopers operating as part of the “I-81 Indian Detail” are guilty of excessive use of force and violations of free speech speaks for itself.

ABUSEs IN THE COURTROOM

Unfortunately, much of the evidence was not allowed to be entered into the court as evidence so the jury was never able to come to a fully formed understanding of what happened that day. It was made painfully obvious to our legal support team, as well as to sympathetic news media, friends, family, and supporters that the Onondaga 15 did not receive a fair trial. We have documented extensive abuse in Judge Frederick Scullin’s courtroom, including: preventing family members from entering the courtroom, not allowing relevant video footage into the trial, not allowing any audio recordings into the trial as evidence, and ordering federal court marshals to physically remove plaintiffs from the courtroom. Judge Scullin has coached state troopers from the stand during questioning, and has prevented plaintiffs (who are operating as their own legal representation) from examining witnesses themselves — in some instances actually taking over the questioning of the witnesses himself. And so on. [this documentation will soon be available on this website]

ongoing repression and corruption

Over the last twenty years, some of the plaintiffs have received death threats and have had family members physically attacked, banished from the reservation, and even murdered in an effort to silence their dissent. That’s right — one of the plaintiffs, Ronald Jones, was found bludgeoned to death in the rubble of his burned-down family home. Autopsy reports show that Mr. Jones died of blunt force trauma to the head and that the fire was started by arson in an attempt to cover up the murder. What has been deliberately and carefully constructed to be dismissed as “intra-community drama or conflict” by outsiders in reality constitutes extreme colonial violence.

The state is violating Haudenosaunee traditional governance and cherry-picking the indigenous people with whom they want to enter into legal relations. The state is using its power to enact violence and mass police brutality onto traditional Haudenosaunee people, using force to beat, murder, and terrorize them into silence and submission. The state is working with and using physical violence to back the authority of non-traditional self-imposed “leaders” in an effort to control and exploit the true Onondaga People. These non-traditional leaders have been connected to rapes, arson, murder, and a slew of corruption complaints. Documentation of this is available and is currently being compiled and reviewed by our legal supporters.


“It’s not just the tax. We’re protesting the Bureau of Indian Affairs and New York state telling us who we should recognize as our leaders.”
— Nikki Sun (Onondaga Nation), whose brother and sister were brutalized and arrested during the I-81 Indian Detail attacks

onondaga 15 for dignity & survivance of haundeosaunee people and governance

The Onondaga 15 are appealing the decisions from the Oct 2016 ruling to continue to fight this case in federal court in another trial. They do this not just for themselves, but to represent the dignity and survivance of Haudenosaunee people, culture, and their traditional governance systems.

We must stand with them. Our support and the visibility we can help to bring them can work to ensure that those who wish to harm them, their families and their supporters cannot do so without other people understanding exactly what is going on. We are thankful for all those who have lended their support to bringing visibility to this case, including the lawyers from across the U.S. and Canada who have offered legal advice and support moving into the future. We look forward to hearing from news media who would like to cover this story. There are certainly more than a few exposés to be written!

For more information on what happened on May 18, 1997, please see the media links and watch the videos, which clearly depict prolonged and widespread police misconduct, abuse, and brutality.