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Jul 4, 2012 11:44 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Bayman Says Shots Fired From Reservation; Shinnecocks Demand Baymen Stay Away

Jul 4, 2012 12:20 PM

A bayman from Hampton Bays said he and another commercial fisherman were shot at with a high-powered rifle on Tuesday evening by members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation while harvesting shellfish in Shinnecock Bay near the reservation.

The bayman, Scott Burgess, said on Wednesday that he and another bayman, Dean Columbo, were digging clams from the bay bottom about 500 yards offshore of the reservation when several people appeared on the shoreline and began yelling, apparently at them, though the baymen could not make out what they were saying. A few minutes later, Mr. Burgess said, they heard the report of a rifle and the sound of bullets whizzing past.

“We were shot at four times,” he said. “You could hear the bullets—one went right by my buddy’s ear.”

The incident comes less than a month after another bayman reported to the Southampton Town Trustees that he was threatened with being shot by a member of the tribe if he didn’t stop digging shellfish close to the reservation. Members of the Town Trustees themselves reported having been shot at on numerous occasions over the years.

Mr. Burgess said that he and Mr. Columbo retreated offshore of the reservation and called State Police, who came to the shoreline of the reservation, where a crowd of tribe members, including members of the Tribal Council and Tribal Trustees, had gathered.

“Nobody was shot at—that’s a bunch of bull. They had firecrackers,” said Shinnecock Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs, who was present on Tuesday evening.

Mr. Gumbs was adamant, however, that the tribe would assert its right to block non-tribe members from harvesting shellfish close to the reservation’s shoreline. “The reality is that we have clammed and used these waters for sustenance for over 10,000 years, and ... we made it clear to those fishermen that they are not about to come and rob our shorelines because they polluted theirs.”

Mr. Gumbs said that the tribe will insist that baymen stay at least 1,000 feet offshore of the reservation. Mr. Burgess said the tribe members told them 1,000 yards on Tuesday night—a distance that he and Mr. Columbo agreed to abide by, he added.

“I’m just trying to make a few extra dollars,” he said. “I shouldn’t have to worry about getting a bullet in my neck.”

Following the claims of threats by another bayman earlier this month, the Town Trustees said that the tribe does not hold any official claim to bay bottoms anywhere in the bay and that all tidal baybottoms are the public property of all the town’s residents. Mr. Gumbs challenged that assertion on Wednesday.

“We’re not even remotely entertaining the notion that they own the bay bottoms,” he said of the Trustees. “We never relinquished any bay bottoms to anyone. Those shellfish are for our sustenance, and we’re not going to have them flat out stealing them.”

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By sandbox (6), southampton on Jul 4, 12 12:06 PM
The FBI? What next? A "Wounded Knee" confrontation between the Town Trustees and the Shinnecocks?

And I'm curious about the "were shot at with a high-powered rifle" part? If that from a quote that was left out of the report, or is that Michael Wright's embellishment of the report.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jul 4, 12 1:31 PM
The same "civilized" individuals who are looking for a Casino and to be treated with respect???? Hmmmmmmmmm
By sandydog21 (195), Southampton on Jul 4, 12 2:14 PM
agree to the 1000 yard limit and be done with this problem
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jul 4, 12 3:45 PM
What a bunch of animals to shoot at someone and then go and hide!! They can't come out and show there faces and demand that the public stays away or get in a boat and go and confront them and ask them to PLEASE stay 1000 yards away? And as far as i'm concerned with Lance Gumbs he has been known to lie and cover up anything that has to do with the Tribe!! I swear you can't make this stuff up!!
By johnnyhampton (82), Southampton on Jul 4, 12 3:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
They use our town roads, free school from Ny State, Welfare, and every other service without paying taxes. The taxpayers don't shoot at the Shinnecocks they try to help them. The Shinnecocks are stealing millions a year in cigarette tax money from NY stae and the federal govt Total bs shooting at someone find them and lock them up.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jul 4, 12 4:06 PM
This BS has been going on for years, I had the same thing happen in the mid 80's, only it was a .22, still enough to wreck your day!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jul 4, 12 7:26 PM
Well, what are the State Police waiting for ? Does someone have to be killed before you take action ?
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Jul 4, 12 8:32 PM
The State doesn't have jurisdiction.
By cochise316 (58), southampton on Jul 6, 12 9:03 AM
I thought ONLY the State Police had jurisdiction on the Res....
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Jul 6, 12 2:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
I've been shot at in Heady Creek in the 80's. In my opinion 1000 yards is WAY too much of a boundry.
I have and will continue to clam wherever I find clams off the reservation , maintaining a respectable
distance but certainly NOT 1000 yards.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Jul 4, 12 10:56 PM
BTW 1000 yards is more than half a mile.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Jul 4, 12 10:58 PM
Attempted Murder...yes..firing a weapon at a human being and doing it repeatedly!
For one moment, if that were a homeowner, not Indian, doing that infront of thier home, would they be scott free? This is America..you fire art a person. you go to jail, get charged.

Our Trustees, our Local Government, our Police should think twice about raisng the American Flag and wearing it on their uniforms.

IF that bullet travelled over the water and struck another innocent human, and ...more
By waterboy (11), southampton on Jul 5, 12 8:34 AM
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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Jul 5, 12 9:34 AM
America, the home of the free and the brave, would not be here if we didn't steal the land from the tribes in our youth (of our country).

Assuming that they are proven right that they own a portion of underwater to which they claim would be the same if you came to my house and starting digging for oil on my front lawn - That form of trespassing would warrant protection under our Constitution of protecting life and property - a shooting would not be out of the realm of possibility. Right ...more
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Jul 5, 12 12:04 PM
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Sad to say, but for every step the Shinnecocks take to go forward, they take two steps back with behavior like this. They are right back to zero in their relations with the community as far as I'm concerned. Why aren't the police going on the reservation to hunt down the person who attempted to murder a Bayman (who was just trying to eek out a living, the HONEST way)
By SisBoomBonacker (106), Hamptons on Jul 5, 12 1:46 PM
For the record, because the 4th of July fell during the middle of the week, fireworks were going off or most of the early week. Not to say that the Shinnecock community might not take a step back in terms of pr, but you also have to remember that other communities as a whole are never blamed for the supposed actions on an individual. When something happens in North Sea, the entire North Sea community is not held to blame. Same can be said for any other community. Shinnecock seems to be the exception ...more
By cochise316 (58), southampton on Jul 6, 12 9:11 AM
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I agree with your point. Unfortunately when you have Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs saying it never happened, it was fireworks, people need to stay away, etc. It sounds like it is the entire Shinnecock Nation, although surely people would know better than that.

Lance's instant support of what happened instead of saying they will find out what happened, hurts the Nation's image.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 6, 12 11:25 AM
Cochise, the Shinnecock are viewed as one because they so loudly claim to be of one blood, one heritage, and one ideal. North Sea makes no such claim; in fact, it celebrates its differences.
By SusieD (115), Southampton on Jul 6, 12 2:43 PM
SusieD I have to disagree. I've lived here my whole life, went to SH schools, and both lived and worked out of North Sea for many years. There has always been a VERY STRONG sense of community in the North Sea area, or at least that was the impression that I was left with.

So in that sense, the 2 communities are similar in that the kinship is there. While we may disagree I would still say that both of these form very tight nit communities. And I would also reiterate that though both form ...more
By cochise316 (58), southampton on Jul 7, 12 11:18 AM
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Are you saying that if someone shot at someone in North Sea the incident would be ignored by local police? I highly doubt that.

Why was this ignored?
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 7, 12 2:15 PM
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No, not at all. I'm just saying that there is a tendency for people to want to hold the shinnecock community at large responsible for the actions of an individual when you don't see that same standard applied to other communities. You can say that it's right or it's wrong, but you can't say that the tendency does not exist.

By cochise316 (58), southampton on Jul 7, 12 4:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
I smell bait...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 8, 12 5:17 PM
Cochise, not shooting at someone is not a high standard to live up to-- It's something that should be second nature. The fact that some people want to hold the entire shinnecock community responsible is because that community won't allow law enforcement to hold it's members accountable, because they say it is their right to self-govern. By this line of rationale they SHOULD be disciplining their members (which they refuse to do) Since our law enforcement officials are not allowed to, than the ...more
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Jul 9, 12 6:34 PM
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Action talks and we all know what walks. A little less talking and a bunch more walking is what the "nation" needs to do.
Don't hold your breath though.
By double-D (96), southampton on Jul 11, 12 7:50 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By maxwell (169), speonk on Jul 5, 12 2:30 PM
I realize the land is owned by the Tribe, but I did not realize they owned and controlled a portion of the bay. Do they have the right to shoot at planes flying over the Reservation?
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on Jul 5, 12 2:59 PM
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Lance Gumbs is dissimulating. There were no coincidental "fireworks" detonations at the same time that the baymen report being fired upon. This behavior is despicable. Until the Shinnecocks and the state reach an enduring agreement as to the right of usage of the waters offshore of Indian property, the sate should delay approval of any Shinnecock casinos.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jul 5, 12 7:48 PM
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Is shooting back an option?...Second Amendment says so...live by the sword, die by the sword!
By Truth Warrior (11), Southampton on Jul 5, 12 10:08 PM
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interesting scenario, warrior. I betcha if the baymen shot back, they'd be arrested.
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Jul 9, 12 6:36 PM
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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Jul 6, 12 7:25 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By MickNY (43), East Hampton on Jul 6, 12 9:09 AM
Shinnecock and antisocial behavior. Like peas and carrots.
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Jul 6, 12 9:38 AM
And have them get rid of those ugly and cheap looking "buildings" on Montauk Highway. Is that the best they can do?
By AFB (31), NYC/SH on Jul 6, 12 9:56 AM
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These fisherman are nothing more than thieves. The reason they try to fish the Shinnecock grounds is because the Shinnecock tend and cultivate them. I have worked on the Oyster Project and have planted spats and oyster beds just a few yards off shore only to have these profiteers sneak in at night and dredge the entire area, only a few yards (Few=4) from shore at high tide, destroying the new beds, destroying the spat trays and stealing the "Crop" of mature shell fish that have been tended. It ...more
Jul 6, 12 11:23 AM appended by theboss
I suppose ending it peacefully is too much to ask for from such ignorant racists as yourselves. The only reason the clams and oysters are there is because of the backbreaking work done by members of the tribe, parents and children working together and my daughter, an irish jew who worked there in conjunction with Cornel Cooperative Extension planted them there. If what I said about the health of the rest of the bay is untrue, let these baymen go to those other parts of the bay and leave this shoreline alone. They won't,. Because the other parts are not as productive and they can make a LOT of money stealing a richer crop. They should be ashamed of themselves.
By theboss (1), PORT WASHINGTON on Jul 6, 12 11:23 AM
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And you should be ashamed of yourself for calling people ignorant racists. Anything you may have said of value is well overshadowed by your rude words.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 6, 12 7:10 PM
It's no secret that baymen have been fired upon for decades. The only difference this time is that word has gotten into the local newspaper. Because it is federal land, local police can't do anything. The state police has turned a blind eye to the whole situation.

Go ahead, take the clams. You're not stealing them or depriving any Shinnecock of sustenance. They wouldn't harvest the clams anyway because digging clams involves doing work.
By HBNative (15), Hampton Bays on Jul 6, 12 11:36 AM
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True....they won't even attempt clamming because it involves back-breaking WORK! Easier to sell ciggy's and scam on the sales taxes to make a living.
By SisBoomBonacker (106), Hamptons on Jul 6, 12 12:05 PM
Sounds like a jealous person. You are actually scammining them by living on their land. Easier to out number them and steal all their land. They means all. Sounds kinda like stereotyping.
By 1percent (52), Quogue on Jul 7, 12 9:06 PM
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wow, a lot of hate going back and forth here. We all need to respect each other and get along. We are not at war. If the underwater land belongs to the tribe, stay out of it. but there needs to be clear and distinguisable signs and patrols protecting them. NO SHOOTING. That is utterly ridiculous. If I fish or clam out of season, or in the wrong area, I don't get shot--- I get fined. AFTER the area in question is clearly defined, put up clear markings, and patrol the waters. Call ...more
By marybmary (54), east hampton on Jul 6, 12 2:27 PM
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!000 YARDS??? That distance on the southside of the reservation is pretty much the Atlantic Ocean, the east side is almost Halsey Neck Ln, the north would be Middle Pond over Little neck Rd, and the west side is practically the east cut going to the inlet. yeah...good luck with that one! But than again how is this news again? this crap has been goin on forever!
By srk (15), southampton on Jul 6, 12 2:57 PM
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Their first aquaculture project collapsed in the 80's. I don't know how successful their current one is.I tend to think its not very successful because it requires a lot of hard work and dedication. HOWEVER , I tend to believe that this kind of aggression towards our baymen will encourage reprisals/retaliation against their aquaculture projects by less scrupulous baymen.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Jul 7, 12 12:05 AM
There is no substance to the Shinnecock claim of ownership of the bay bottom either in law or in custom yet tribal leaders like Mr. Gumbs continually assert it as tribal dogma. It is long past time to confront this assertion and the impending licensing of Shinnecock casinos gives us leverage to compel the tribe to come to the table.

This opportunity will not come again and it would be both foolish and craven for the authorities to forgo its use. The Shinnecocks should be notified that ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jul 7, 12 11:35 AM
You are dead wrong HHS, the Shinnecock's 1000 year lease which included the vast majority of Shinnecock Bay ands it's bottom was dissolved through forgery and lies. When this was done in 1859 as I'm sure you know, they were give the land that comprises the current reservation. In 1859 Shinnecock Bay was a land locked brackish lake with no rise or fall of the tide. Since then through acts of civil engineering, digging the Canal and digging halfway through the barrier beach at the location of the ...more
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Jul 8, 12 12:50 PM
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Thanks for the informative post, ICE. Curious to see the reply from HHS.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 8, 12 1:05 PM
ICE-I must say I am impressed with your knowledge on this subject as well as the time you invested in getting the facts.
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on Jul 8, 12 2:22 PM
to ICE:

Thanks. I was, indeed, ignorant of the case you mention but now I have read the decision. It concerns the principle of avulsion and how it affects waterfront property ownership in Shinnecock Bay. The Shinnecock Indians appear nowhere in the text.

The holding, if I read it correctly, is that the bayside property lines of waterfront lots are the high water mark that existed prior to the 3&1/2 ft. increase in water depth caused by navigation improvements.

If this ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jul 8, 12 6:36 PM
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I never said the case law mentioned the Shinnecocks, but you did see the connection to the land around the reservation and the facts uncovered during that particular litigation. That is why I suggested it to you and it is a fairly interesting and informative read.

As for the Shinnecocks being held up on the casino permission, I have to disagree with your opinion, as it equals a form of blackmail.
Also, I believe those who flooded the bay should pay to ascertain the actual demarcation ...more
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Jul 9, 12 11:27 PM
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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Jul 7, 12 12:06 PM
State rigthts, town trustee rights, What about the rights of the only true americans in the state, The American Indian. The tribal members are living within a border that was established by greedy , selfish, and arrogant people who still want more control over their rights and their land. Listen to the names and false accusations made about all indians. The state is delaying gambling for the tribe so all other private non indians can establish their own casinos and once again hoodwink the american ...more
By 1percent (52), Quogue on Jul 7, 12 8:58 PM
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Based on your statement, if they keep shooting at non-Indians, they can start shooting back, right?
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 7, 12 10:19 PM
to 1percent:

Your post epitomizes the self-righteous, solipsistic perspective that characterizes Shinnecock relations with their neighbors. Withholding their casino licenses is the only opportunity that we will ever have to compel them to negotiate and to accept a compromise regarding the status of the bay waters. Otherwise, they will continue to shoot at "thieves" whenever they feel "justified".
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jul 8, 12 12:22 PM
HHS, any thoughts on the post from ICE at 12:50 PM today?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 8, 12 1:06 PM
Its time for the Shinnecock's to take the offensive-they should erect a hugh tent and bring in gambling by next weekend. Attract massive crowds and tie up all the local roads. Show their strength. They have been surpressed for too long.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jul 8, 12 2:52 PM
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I, too have had the unpleasant experience of being shot at while clamming near the res...a couple of times over the years. I'm sick of the old mantra about "we've been here 10,000 years, blah, blah, blah. The fact is, I've spent a lot of time clamming those waters, and seeing a Shinnecock Indian actually digging clams is a rare event. There just are not many if any Shinnecock Indians clamming for sustenance...that is plain BS. How's this for a continuance of Lance's logic...If it weren't for ...more
By Born Here (26), HB on Jul 8, 12 3:15 PM
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It's a big bay, why go near the rez if you know that danger exists? If we hadn't been supplying the German's with oil, tanks and many other necessities for their war effort it may have never gotten off the ground. Wether or not they dig the clams, or any other shellfish isn't the litmus test for you to be able trespass and steal from them!
While we're on the us European settlers, remember if it were not for the Shinnecocks in particular, the original settlers wouldn't have survived the first ...more
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Jul 8, 12 3:52 PM
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Most people in this country have no connection to the settlers that came here 400 years ago, and most members of the tribe have tenuous connections to original tribe, at best.

That is, unless you see everything in racial terms.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Jul 8, 12 4:13 PM
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Speaking of history and ignorance, do you believe the tribes that existed here prior to 1600 had some wonderful, idealic existance until the evil Europeans came along?

Humans have been migrating from one place to another for hundreds of thousands of years. For all we know, the Shinnecocks could very well have displaced other people to gain the territory they had.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Jul 8, 12 4:16 PM
and just how far away should we stay? how far does a rifle bullet travel?? you must have ice between your ears.

By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jul 8, 12 9:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
One more thing.... I say, we should stay away....from their stupid Pow Wow. BOYCOT THE POW WOW!
By Born Here (26), HB on Jul 8, 12 3:18 PM
Dont buy cigarettes, or go to the circus....they say stay off their land, well, unless you have cash.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Jul 10, 12 7:05 AM
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Hmm, speaking of the Pow Wow, is a visa granted by the sovereign Shinnecock Nation required for citizens of the USA to attend the Pow Wow? Where does one pick up a visa application? What is the lead time for a visa being granted? Hopefully not longer than two months!

Do the daily shoppers on the south side of Old Montauk Highway between Old Fort Pond and Hill Street have to present visas to buy cigarettes, coffee and so forth when they pull over to shop?

Is the "border" enforced ...more
By Nero (301), Sag Harbor on Jul 8, 12 5:22 PM
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The baymen who were shot at were working in Shinnecock Bay, not Heady Creek. The oyster program is on the Hheady side of the Rez. The baymen were working on a NATURAL SET of clams , and that area has held a good amount of product for decades! Hard and gravelly bottom makes for hard work, these guys were in no way taking clams that could be accessed from shore, a boat is needed. How can someone from Port Washington have a horse in this race Boss?
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jul 9, 12 6:48 AM
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Actually they also use a method known as longlining in which an outboard motors propellor wash is used to uncover the clams and then they are scooped up with a net.
And these clams can be accessed from the reservation.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Jul 10, 12 1:15 AM
Just ask Frank Wheeler, and highhatsize they are omnipotent, it seems there opinions are always the most profound and important. I agree with 1 percent. I say let the Indians do whatever they like, personally, I like to see a resort hotel, casino and marina in the Town of Southampton.
By rrc1049 (63), Bridgehampton on Jul 9, 12 9:54 AM
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"I say let the Indians do whatever they like"

So you are fine with someone shooting at you or your loved ones? Shooting at people could put a damper on the success of that hotel/casino/marina.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 10, 12 3:18 PM
If the Shinnecocks want to be a seperate nation let them do so. No free education, no federal grants, no using our roadways for shipping cigarettes, and no using any US facilities. I'm sick of the BS that the white man did this, and ruined their lives. That is evolution and life, borders are changed people invade unfortunately that's reality. Why do US citizens keep paying for native Americans there is not one living person who was effected or took Indian land. This country is full of differant ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jul 9, 12 11:20 AM
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Why can't they work like the rest of us.
By maxwell (169), speonk on Jul 9, 12 1:07 PM
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Why.....Because when you've been on the Government dole for so many years, the work ethic and drive is diluted - and it's impossible to come back into mainstream society and be productive, hard working taxpayers. Many of the Shinnecocks have learned how to work the welfare system and are passing it down generation to generation. And they think they'll be able to own & operate a casino in our town with these values - Ha!
By SisBoomBonacker (106), Hamptons on Jul 9, 12 3:11 PM
Everyone is missing the point. You can't go around shooting at people. The gunmen should be arrested for attempted murder, period! If anyone not on the Rez did that, you would be arrested and charged.
By Terbear (77), Southampton on Jul 10, 12 1:57 PM
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the posts above are insitgating a riot of sorts against the Indians and the general public. Stop and think about what the Indians have given up and DO NOT play a race card, Further negative statements on this board will further the already questionable relationships with the Shinnecocks much to everyone's problems. please think before you post. PS I an an anglosaxton english american and although I don't agree with all going on I must say the situation needs to be looked at seriously and ...more
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Jul 10, 12 6:25 PM
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