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Aug 1, 2012 9:27 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tribe And Trustees Still Working On Settlement Of Shellfish Rights

Aug 1, 2012 10:16 AM

The Southampton Town Trustees and the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s leadership are still trying to reach an agreement on a settlement of the tribe’s claim to exclusive access rights to shellfish that lie in bay bottoms near the tribe’s reservation at the eastern end of Shinnecock Bay.

Tribal Trustees President Randy King and Town Trustees President Eric Shultz have met to talk about a number of possible arrangements that would satisfy the tribe. Mr. Shultz said they have not yet come up with a proposal that either could take back to the other members of their respective boards to discuss further.

“There’s a bunch of different concepts that we’ve been batting around, but we’re still in the discussion phase at this point,” Mr. Shultz said. “We need to get this resolved soon, so we need to move it along. We’ll have to find something we can bring to our boards and then have a joint meeting with them and us.”

Mr. King could not be reached for comment.

In June, a Hampton Bays man reported to the Trustees that a member of the tribe paddled a canoe out to where he was digging clams in Heady Creek and told him that if he didn’t stop shellfishing there, he was going to get shot. It was a claim that was met with tales from members of the Trustees about numerous other baymen offering similar accounts over periods of many years—to the extent that it had just become an occasionally expected occurrence. The shots fired were usually from shotguns and largely harmless at distances of more than a couple of hundred feet.

But in early July, two baymen called State Police and reported that they had been fired at by someone on the reservation brandishing what they claimed was a high-powered rifle. Following the incident, tribal leaders demanded that non-Shinnecocks stay away from the reservation’s shorelines and adjacent creeks and ponds because the shellfish there were for the tribe to harvest exclusively.

The Trustees have said that the tribe does not hold any exclusive rights to any bay bottoms below the tide line, but after the second shooting incident, Mr. Shultz said the centuries-old stewards of public lands would negotiate with the tribe to see if there is a settlement that would acceptable to both commercial baymen and the tribe members.

Mr. Shultz said he hopes the two sides can at least find a specific proposal to begin working out details on by next week.

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