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Mar 31, 2010 12:42 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Shinnecocks clear last hurdle; recognition expected by July

Mar 31, 2010 12:42 PM

The Shinnecock Indian Nation has cleared what should be the final hurdle in its nine-year push to achieve federal recognition, the key step in being allowed to open a casino.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, or BIA, which issued a preliminary approval of the tribe’s federal recognition application in December, officially closed a comment period on the Shinnecock application last week. No comments were received during the 90-day span.

According to the timeline imposed on the BIA by a federal court after the tribe sued the agency for dragging its feet on the application, the BIA now has until June 21 to issue its final determination. Tribal leaders and BIA officials will meet this week with Judge Joseph Bianco to confirm that timeline. The bureau and tribe will then meet next week to work on the final determination.

After the BIA issues its final determination, there will be one last opportunity for objections, for 30 days. If no valid objections are heard, the tribe will be granted federal recognition on or before July 26.

Shinnecock attorney Mark Tilden, who has shepherded the tribe’s application, said that the lack of comments during the allotted period means the tribe is certain to receive its recognition.

“We fully expect a positive outcome,” Mr. Tilden said.

Tribal Chairman Randy King said he is anticipating a smooth path to the final determination. He said the tribe is eager to move to the next step.

“This has been something we’ve been working at a long time,” he said.

The Shinnecocks were one of the first Native American tribes to file a federal recognition application in 1978, when the government reopened the federal register to tribes that had been ignored or removed from federal lists. But the tribe did not complete its application until 2001, after an Oklahoma businessman invested millions of dollars in the tribe’s effort to develop a casino on Long Island.

A federal judge granted the Shinnecock federal recognition in 2004, citing the tribe’s official recognition by the State of New York since 1792 and the extraordinarily well documented official communications between tribal leaders and New York government officials over 200 years. But the BIA refused to honor the judge’s decree, saying the tribe would still have to navigate its notoriously sluggish approval process.

In February, the BIA rejected an appeal by individuals claiming to be the leaders of the scattered Montaukett tribe, a longtime ally of the Shinnecock in the pre-colonial era, that requested their own federal recognition application be piggy-backed on the Shinnecock approval.

While the casino effort is certainly the ultimate goal of the tribe’s federal recognition application, the government acknowledgement also comes with a multitude of social benefits, including government aid for infrastructure improvements, medical care and education.

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Congratulations! This is long overdue!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Apr 1, 10 10:04 PM
great news!
By rabbit (65), watermill on Apr 2, 10 8:09 AM
1 member liked this comment
I'd imagine the Oklahoma businessman is going to rename the tribe"$hinnecock"
By Soundview (89), Hampton bays on Apr 2, 10 1:27 PM
I'm sure the Oklahoma businessman has only noble intentions. He's not interested in money- -he only wants to further the cause of $hinnecock nationalism, and improve their infrastructure, etc.

and i bet he has a really cool 10-gallon hat
By nicole (96), Hampton Bays on Apr 2, 10 8:53 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Apr 2, 10 2:22 PM
Not sure why my comment was deemed inapproriate. I guess you can not be oppossed to the casino
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Apr 2, 10 7:36 PM
Did anyone see the letter to the editor in this week's Independent by someone living on the reservation? It was a barn burner. If what was written about is true, the writer is very courageous. I was surprised one like it wasn't also in the press when I opened it today.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Apr 3, 10 12:32 AM
Wow - you're not kidding - assuming the info is true the author has a lot of guts to come forward like that. I wouldn't be surpised though - all this money really sets an environment for corruption. I hope the entire tribe benefits, and not just a select few.
By diogenes (57), westhampton on Apr 5, 10 4:50 PM
It took 23 years to complete a federal recognition application? I wonder how long it will take them to build their casino, a few months maybe?
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Apr 4, 10 4:22 AM
Congratulations to the Shinnecock nation. Beare of those who seek to finance you, they only have their interests at heart! They will rob you blind and the only people maiking money off the casino deal will be the tribal elders and the management formed hired to run the casino. Shinnecocks, get rid of your esisting tribal council. Bring back Lance Gumbs, at least he cares about the tribal members!
By Walt (292), Southampton on Apr 5, 10 8:50 PM