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Jan 4, 2010 10:22 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Shinnecocks are looking at benefits that come with federal recognition

Editor's Note: This article was published in the December 24 issue of The Southampton Press and the December 23 issue of The East Hampton Press.
Jan 4, 2010 10:22 AM

As luck would have it, so to speak, a week after the Shinnecock Indian Nation learned that it had received preliminary federal recognition came a heaping reminder of the kinds of benefits that long-awaited status might bring.

“The Mashantucket Pequot received [federal] funding for snow removal,” Shinnecock Tribal Trustee Chairman Randy King said as he and fellow Trustee Fred Bess helped dig out the driveway of an elderly tribe member on Monday.

While a proposed casino has received most of the attention, tribal leaders have said that the immediate financial assistance they could receive from the federal government once recognition is finalized—money that could be spent on basic and sorely needed improvements at the 800-acre reservation just outside Southampton Village—is possibly the more pressing interest of tribal leaders.

Federal recognition would open the door for the tribe for a wide array of financial assistance for improvements, services and self-governance on the reservation. Improvements to roadways, electrical and plumbing systems on the reservation would be at the top of the to-do list.

As would housing assistance. Unable to apply for mortgages, because reservation land cannot be put up as collateral for private housing loans, the reservation’s 500 residents could benefit from federal housing grants and other assistance.

The tribe could also apply for financial aid in improving its social programs, such as senior citizen, child day care and after-school education programs.

Donald Williams Jr. was a teenager when the tribe originally applied for federal recognition in the late 1970s. He has two uncles who were tribal leaders.

“In ’78, I was a teenager, but I remember all the discussions,” he said. “The elders were reluctant back then. They looked at it, and they told us we have to be careful, because when the government gives you something, you have to give them something back.”

The Shinnecocks were among the first tribes to apply for federal recognition in 1978. But despite having what many historians say is one of the best documented histories of any tribe in the country, the Shinnecocks did not actively pursue completing the application for more than 20 years.

The lure of gaming riches rekindled the effort in 2000, with the financial backing of wealthy non-Native American casino developers, but the federal recognition pursuit has also highlighted just what the tribe has been missing out on. After seven years of lawsuits in federal court—including a 2004 ruling by a judge that granted the tribe federal recognition, only to have the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) flatly refuse to adhere to that decision—a judge ordered the BIA to act on the Shinnecock application immediately.

And the extra wait might well have been worth it.

“There’s more to offer now in education and health benefits,” Mr. Williams said. “When other tribes visit the reservation for the Powwow, they can’t believe that we’re not federally recognized with everything that we have. We have a health center, a church, the powwow grounds, a cemetery .... Now we can grow even more.”

Mr. Williams said housing assistance is the primary concern of tribe members, adding that he hopes a reservation-based school is in the future as well, and college scholarships for tribal teens.

The assistance could also mean more job opportunities on the reservation. There are currently some 25 tribal members employed in various offices, all of them paid with funds given to the tribe annually by the Detroit-based casino developers. Federal recognition carries allowances for more employees in tribal offices.

The array of other possible programs, from tribal police and fire-fighting units, to even a justice court are still beyond being more than distant possibilities for the tribal leaders, Mr. King and Mr. Bess said.

“We’ll be checking with the government as far as what programs are out there that we can apply for,” Mr. King said. “This is new territory for us; We’re learning as we go.”

One of the tribe’s elders, Dorothy Dennis, said the pending federal recognition approval itself is just a title with mostly symbolic meaning for the tribe’s proud members. The benefits it may carry, though, are a reason for hope.

“I’m happy, especially for the younger people who will have so many more opportunities,” she said. “We’ve always known who we were, it was other people who didn’t.”

Staff writer Erin Geismer contributed to this story.

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Can't wait to read the whole article and many congrats to the tribe. Well-deserved and overdue!
By Stony Brook Southampton (2), Southampton on Dec 22, 09 3:22 PM
Is it "800" acres? A poster on the former thread about federal recognition peg it at "eighty" acres.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Dec 22, 09 3:32 PM
The main reservation is over 800 acres. Highhatsize, you live in East Quogue and don't know how large the reservation is? Look at a map and you can clearly see it've over 80 acres.

I'm looking forward to the article Michael!
By LMVT (56), Hampton Bays on Dec 22, 09 6:34 PM
So they are saying we need to pay to read now, at least in this instance?
By RemembertheDucks (54), Eastport on Dec 23, 09 2:48 AM
I've a Question for all of you who think this is so WELL DESERVED and OVERDUE....

Why do the Shinnecocks need Federal Government Subsidies to plow their snow, and improve their land???
Do they not have the ability to GET A JOB, or RUN A BUSINESS, like every other person in this country?

The "Tribe" is free from federal and local government taxation and have pretty much a free hand in running their own "Nation" The land is theirs and they can do with it what they wish without ...more
By JackC574 (21), Southampton on Dec 23, 09 6:34 AM
2 members liked this comment
Jack you can walk into a bank and obtain a mortgage. If a tribe member builds on the reservation. That's not an option to them. Jack, What you fail to understand is before this country was "discovered" The Shinniecocks and other native people were already here. Their land, culture, their entire way of life was taken away from them by settlers who in their Euro centric ignorance thought the natives here nothing but savages with no right to the land they lived on for thousands of years and who needed ...more
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Dec 23, 09 9:31 AM
Are you aware of the history of the Native Americans? Perhaps you should focus your hatred and rage elsewhere. By the way, who do you think pays to plow your road?
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Dec 23, 09 10:16 AM
2 members liked this comment
Ahh .... my tax dollars !!!! which the shinnecocks dont pay !!
By WHB65 (3), WHB on Dec 24, 09 11:16 AM
very well put
By zeke (40), southampton on Jan 1, 10 11:46 AM
Many others are alcoholics, career criminals, etc... This reservation is small compared to reserations elsewhere in the country that are as big as some states. There is no reason these people can't take care of themselves. The children have always attended our schools. I do not belive that we owe peole for things that happened 200 years ago. That is more than enough time to better yourselves instead of looking for handouts and making excuses.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Jan 3, 10 10:38 AM
Jack it is almost impossible to address your level of ignorance. Sometimes I wish people like you could "walk a mile in someone elses' shoes". It would teach you a lot. Merry Christmas!
By rabbit (65), watermill on Dec 23, 09 8:59 AM
3 members liked this comment
Whenever someone doesn'r agrre with a liberal, you label them ignorant. mybe you should get your head our of your ass and look ar reality for once.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Jan 3, 10 10:40 AM
Wish I didnt have to pay taxes and could open a casino in the hamptons. I would be using Gold plated shovels to plow my snow
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Dec 23, 09 9:30 AM
1 member liked this comment
Just when you think a comment cannot get any more ignorant or hateful than Jack, along comes razza.
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Dec 23, 09 10:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
even if they do not deserve it, be nice
By zeke (40), southampton on Jan 1, 10 11:49 AM
No one is indigenous to North America. Everyone came from somewhere else at one point.
By RemembertheDucks (54), Eastport on Dec 23, 09 10:49 AM
True enough, but I don't see anyone on this thread using that term. A more accurate description would be aboriginal or as the Canadians refer to their "native" populations as First Nations.

The Shinnecocks may not have originated on Long Island, but they were surely among the first to arrive at the party!
By Split Rock (68), Sag Harbor on Dec 23, 09 11:32 AM
First Nations... I think that has a nice ring to it. But how long do you have to live somewhere to be considered indigenous or aboriginal or native or even... the Hampton's favorite... "local"? If this is the case is anyone one really indigenous to anywhere considering how the continents have shaped and shifted throughout time? I don't expect you to answer these questions... your post just made me think about this in greater detail.
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Dec 23, 09 8:04 PM
But that was their ancesters, hundreds of years ago - if you did DNA you would find that very few have much "native" blood in them. How long should this free ride go on? They didn't suffer, their long lost relatives did. And, there are many others who suffered as well. This whole reservation crap should be abolished. If they would just make their land part of the system, pay taxes like everyone else, and not have to live in a bubble of very old history, then they would be able to get mortgages ...more
By Amahalo (20), East Hampton on Dec 24, 09 10:13 AM
You are a hateful, ignorant, bigot. Merry Christmas.
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Dec 24, 09 11:19 AM
1 member liked this comment
INS is 100% correct and factually accurate here.
By elliot (254), sag harbor on Dec 25, 09 3:29 PM
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Dec 26, 09 5:38 PM
wow amahalo.
nothing scarier than an ignorant cynic.
By concerned east ender (49), Sag Harbor on Dec 27, 09 4:50 PM
There have been many black people who suffered through slavery (white people too for that matter).

There are many Native Americans who were displaced from their homes and treated to say the least very poorly.

The Jewish people have been kicked around a lot too.

There are entire peoples who have been the victim genocide and nations that no longer exist.

In the melting pot of genetic recombination we can all point to some egregious wrong inflicted upon our ancestors. ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Dec 23, 09 10:57 AM
3 members liked this comment
There are tribe members who do own homes off the reservation, and pay taxes and mortgage payments. My statement regarding obtaining a mortgage was not made as a complaint. They should ask for something more, and different. You have no idea how members of the Tribe have been treated over the years, in school, by law enforcement. People learn a stereotype and apply to everyone who comes off the reservation. There is a certain amount of personal responsibility that everyone holds for how their lives ...more
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Dec 23, 09 12:27 PM
Who has had a boot on their neck, yesterday? the week before? a year ago? ten years ago? 25 years ago? 50 years ago? 75 years ago?

As for generalized discrimination by one group against another it goes on everyday. People like to be in clubs, whether it is shared racial identity, co-religionists, political ideology, frat house, sorority house... the list is endless.

As for stereotyping someone who has lived on the reservation; can you tell by looking at someone where they ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Dec 23, 09 1:56 PM
Perhaps if the population just became humans/Americans/Citizens, there would be no stereotyping. It's the "members of the tribe" who CHOOSE to diferentiate themselves constantly by throwing around events from hundreds of years past. How sad that they cannot just move into the future unless there is a financial stipend attached. Sorry, but the US Government does not owe these ancestors (loose term) anything, and neither does the rest of the American population. It's time to move on and just be ...more
By Amahalo (20), East Hampton on Dec 24, 09 10:17 AM
When you say, "Just be as one" you mean, "why can't we all just be like me." How about this, instead of the Native Americans adopting your culture, why don' t you adopt theirs? After all, they were here first.
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Dec 24, 09 11:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
What culture is "their" culture?
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Dec 25, 09 10:43 AM
I hope the Shinnecocks realize that more money will solve only a few of their many problems, and will in turn create many more.

''mo money...mo problems'' - Notorious B.I.G
By C Law (354), Water Mill on Dec 24, 09 5:41 AM
PStevens, Rabbit et. al...
My statement had no HATE in it towards any Group of people...
If you understood it to be so, that is something you've chosen to see.
My point is the Shinnecocks as opposed to Non-Tribal citizens, don't have the US Government, The Town Government, or any Government other than their own restricting their use of the land...And I'm not talking about Casino's.

I praise the Shinnecocks for their ability to recognize a need and fill it....
"Raindrop's ...more
By JackC574 (21), Southampton on Dec 24, 09 7:43 AM
3 members liked this comment
"Why do the Shinnecocks need Federal Government Subsidies to plow their snow, and improve their land???
Do they not have the ability to GET A JOB, or RUN A BUSINESS, like every other person in this country? "

No, not hate in that sentence, huh? To think that you actually have the audacity to accuse others of having a "narrow view".
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Dec 24, 09 9:44 AM
1 member liked this comment
Well said Jack. So i guess if you expect people to work for their own money. Your a hate monger. fcmcmann. Your quite bitter in general. You should try more thought and less anger. Remember that are two sides and that everyone has a right to there opinion without being "yelled at".
Where is the hate in GET A JOB???????????
By double-D (96), southampton on Dec 24, 09 12:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
Very curious to see what you all think of the smoke shop Indian down on Jobs Lane.
By chairmanoftheBORED (12), Southampton on Dec 24, 09 9:39 AM
Don't mind fmc. If you disagree with her position you are a "hater"
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Dec 24, 09 8:22 PM
I just want to know at what point will I no longer be responsible for the actions of peoples who lived hundreds of years ago? Will my children also be the ones to pay and their children? I did nothing to anyone...never took land,or had a slave or so much as cut anyone off in traffic. If all of you feel the Natives were wronged...what can be done? Give them my home? How about yours? If that casino were to even been thought of on Hill St....well, it would never happen. Makes more sense. 800 acres ...more
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Dec 24, 09 9:48 PM
2 members liked this comment
Could fcmcmann and yearrounder be the same person?
By fix-it-now (216), sag harbor on Dec 25, 09 3:38 PM
If the tribe builds any buildings on their lands with federal dollars in particular those buildings that provide public services (senior center or youth center etc.)they will be open to the public because public funds were used. One major valid concern should be: who is going to redesign the Sunrise Highway debacle and all other entrance roads including Montauk Highway and then remove impediments (homes, businesses, existing infrastructure, etc.) to the new plan and pay the extraneous costs of ...more
By maggie (16), East Quogue on Dec 27, 09 3:12 PM
Sorry maggie. It may be public funds that is giving but its Native American funds for Native Americans only.
By me (6), southampton on Dec 28, 09 8:29 AM
I am a proud Shinnecock woman born on one of the days of Powwow. I practice our traditions and I have carried them on to my children. I have traveled all over the country to many reservations and found that it is all the same. Alcoholism, suicide and drugs marinade on these grounds which our ancestor once roamed. Who out of anyone can actually say that they still remain on the same land which there great great great grandfathers once farmed, hunt, or fished. When you go to the grocery store ...more
By nativebeauty (1), shinnecock on Dec 27, 09 8:06 PM
2 members liked this comment
Your children are lucky to have age-old traditions passed down to them. I think one of the biggest problems facing our youth today is that they have no sense of being part of a culrture or the larger world family. We have managed to build walls between ourselves and the Earth and give no thoughts to how our actions influence others or the environment. I wish your tribe the best of luck in the coming months as the rest of the federal process plays itself out and I hope the outcome brings positive ...more
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Dec 28, 09 7:36 AM
Well it your "Ignorant neighbors" you are asking for money, so maybe a little less name calling might help.
By Wallstguy (3), Quogue on Jan 8, 10 5:22 AM
This is Yasmine L Williams. Shinnecock member and single mother of two wonderful boys. The Reservation is a beautiful place that gives us a sense of identity. My linage comes from a long list of Shinnecock Natives back to 1700s. Many marriages are inter-tribal to keep the blood lines thick. The blood lines many not be 100% but must are very thick. The individuals that are pushing for a casino have their own homes and business on tribal land and are money hungry. As for me and many others it’s about ...more
By me (6), southampton on Dec 28, 09 9:12 AM
Will a casino really benefit all of the Shinnecock Nation? I think not. The people that the tribal leaders have partnered with have only their own monetary interests at heart. They will bleed the majority of any casino revenues away from the Shinnecock nation. The question is what will the tribal leaders do with their share of the casino revenues? Will these funds be used for the betterment of all nation members? What good will having a casino hundreds of miles away do for the employment situation. ...more
By Walt (292), Southampton on Jan 3, 10 11:01 AM
Yasmine, Its hard enough being a single mom without the basics, so I understand what you are saying. Decent housing should be available without federal recognition. I mean, people who arent even citizens get state aid,WIC and all the benifits people with jobs who pay taxes need. The U.S. owes you your own home, period. Will they give you funding as a mortgage? You wont have to pay it back, right? The real problem is that those who are screaming for a casino are the loudest. No one hears the voice ...more
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Dec 28, 09 2:33 PM
And who makes right the abusive discrimination the Irish endured? Or the Polish? or the Italians? or African Americans? or the Muslims? How about taxpayer reparations? We could bankrupt the national treasury but that "ain't" gonna reverse injustice no matter where it reared its ugly head.

Get over it and move on. It's a new day, a new generation worthy of forgoing the "sins of the fathers" ... geez
By JimmyKBond (156), Hampton Bays on Jan 2, 10 10:52 AM
Jasmine you dont mention a husband. Havent you been getting Medicaide and free medical for yourself and your children? Also, arent you getting food stamps and welfare and a housing supplement, and money for electric, phone,gas and cab service to stores I'm not saying its easy for a single mom but dont you get all this?
By LongIslander (43), HAMPTON BAYS on Dec 30, 09 7:39 PM
I'm a single mother and I don't get any of that. I work full time, attend school full time and raise my daughter (with much help from an amazing family). I pay for my own medical, food, rent, electric, phone, car, etc. The only thing I do not pay for is my tuition, for which I receive grant money from the state and federal government. I got a 4.0 this semester so, don't fret, your tax dollars are being well-used. I was denied any benefits from the government because I make "too much money". If you ...more
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Dec 30, 09 7:55 PM
That's because the sytem sucks. It encourges you to not work, make less money and receive more entitlements. The harder you work the less you get
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Dec 31, 09 1:20 PM
Well then, sorry, I give you credit for what you are doing. I too struggle month to month as a senior citizen with a small pension and social security. luckily my house is paid for. Good luck in your endeavors.
By LongIslander (43), HAMPTON BAYS on Dec 31, 09 12:01 AM
My house isnt paid for. I work 2 jobs, everyday. But because I work on the books and pay taxes I make too much money for any help. Hopefully the bank won't take my home. Happy New Year.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Dec 31, 09 9:14 PM
A mortgage cannot be given to someone who cannot be forced to pay it. If the home purchased cannot be taken away after the owner refuses to pay for it, why would the bank give it out in the first place? I understand this (it stinks, but it makes sense). If the individual seeking the loan is so sure of their ability to pay it, would they be able to waive the inability of the bank to seize the property? Perhaps the governing body of the tribe would be willing to offer this as an alternative to ...more
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Jan 2, 10 6:22 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Jan 11, 10 10:21 PM