Federal Judge dismisses case brought by Native American against Northampton Supervisors & PNC Bank

March 18, 2023
 |
indiantown park

Pictured: the entrance to Indiantown Park, courtesy of Northampton County, VA.

A federal judge dismissed the case brought against the Northampton County Board of Supervisors and PNC Bank on Friday afternoon by Lisa Cypress, a member of the so called “Gingaskin Indians,” which claimed she was the rightful owner of sections of the land which now comprise Indiantown Park and the PNC location on Route 13 in Eastville.

United States District Judge Elizabeth W. Hanes of the Eastern District Court in Norfolk granted PNC Bank’s motion to dismiss the case saying Cypress did “not adequately allege that she ‘has good title and the right to possession of the property'” that the two parties currently possess.

Judge Hanes also said PNC Bank purchased the land in 1973, 50 years ago, while the Virginia law clearly states “any person who seeks to bring an action to recover land must do so within fifteen years.”

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In the lawsuit for Indiantown Park, in addition not proving right to possession and the statute of limitations, which expired in 1989, the Judge found in favor of Northampton County’s argument that the lawsuit was invalid because it was brought against the Northampton County Board of Supervisors, as opposed to Northampton County. 

Cypress, a native of Georgia according to Judge Hanes’ ruling, filed the case in July 2021, alleging that “in 1640, the English government issued a land patent ‘that set aside land for the Accomac Indians,’ who ‘became known as the Gingaskins.'” The complaint continued “the Gingaskins ‘suffer[ed] from a decreased population and pressures from their white neighbors.’ In 1813, the Virginia General Assembly ‘passed a law . . . to terminate the Gingaskin reservation,’ divide their land ‘into plots,’ and to deed the various plots ‘to surviving members’ of the tribe. This law resulted in the execution of a Settlement Agreement in 1815 that divided the land in question into more than two dozen plots, which were deeded to more than two dozen separate individuals.”

Claiming four of the plots, numbers 1, 16, 26,  and 27, were rightfully hers, she argued in the suit, “as an heir to the original owners of the four plots, she enjoys ‘vested ownership and title’ to Plot Numbers 1, 16, 26,  and 27.’ She further claimed PNC Bank and the Northampton County Board of Supervisors were ‘unlawfully possessing’ the referenced plots of land, with plot 1, 26 and 27 being located at Indiantown Park and plot 16 PNC Bank on Lankford Highway.

She admitted in the filing the land in question was owned by several other parties between the act of the General Assembly in 1815 and the 1970s, but argued they were “fraudulent deeds filed with inconsistencies and lies,” questioning the validity of a deed that transferred the property of her ancestor, Ebby Francis, to her son-in-law when Francis “had children alive who were rightfully due the land inheritance.”

Cypress can appeal the ruling.

The full ruling from Judge Hanes can be read here.

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