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Jun 16, 2010 12:16 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Shinnecock tribe receives federal recognition

Jun 16, 2010 12:16 PM

Members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation rejoiced on Tuesday after the tribe was informed by the U.S. Department of the Interior that they have been officially awarded federal recognition—a designation that recognizes the tribe’s long history on the East End, and the critical step leading to a host of governmental aid and opportunities, foremost among them the chance to operate a gaming facility.

“There was jubilation,” Tribal Trustees Chairman Randy King said at a gathering of tribe members and media on the Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton on Tuesday afternoon. “Our people have always known who they were and it was a happy occasion to have that validated. There were tears of joy from a lot of our older members.”

Tribal leaders informed Nation members of the impending decision on Monday night, and more than 100 gathered on Tuesday behind closed doors at the tribal offices to be present for the call from R. Lee Flemming, director of the Office of Federal Recognition for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an agency of the Interior Department. The call confirmed that the BIA has ruled the tribe should receive federal recognition, nine years after its application for the designation was completed.

“This is something we’ve anticipated and waited on for a long time—we’re overjoyed,” Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs said shortly after the announcement was made. He said that while the BIA’s preliminary determination in December had indicated that recognition would be forthcoming, there was tension nonetheless. “We sat there holding our breath, literally—I think everyone in that room was holding their breath. I don’t think anyone was taking it for granted until we heard those words.”

While some other Native American tribes waited 20 years or more for their application to navigate the labyrinthine federal recognition process, the Shinnecock Tribe’s time on the hook was cut to just nine years, thanks to a legal crusade spearheaded by casino developers hoping to cash in on a future Shinnecock-operated casino. After eight years of court battles—the tribe had declared itself independent of the federal guidelines and started to clear land for a gaming hall in Hampton Bays in 2002—a federal court last year ordered the BIA to issue a final determination on the tribe’s application before Monday, June 21. The same court ruled in 2007 that the tribe-owned property in Hampton Bays, off Newtown Road, could not be immediately used for gaming.

In the years since, the tribe has been clear that it wishes to identify a suitable site to begin development of what would be a much larger high-stakes casino operation, with accompanying hotel and entertainment facilities.

In order to proceed with any development, the tribe will have to acquire a parcel and put it into a federal trust with the BIA. It will then have to reach an agreement with the governor and State Legislature, likely anchored by a profit-sharing agreement that could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenues for the state, county and local municipalities.

Last week, Shinnecock officials met with members of a task force formed by the Suffolk County Legislature to explore possible locations in the county for a sprawling casino development. The developers of the Enterprise Park at Calverton, on 95 acres of the former Grumman fighter plane testing facility, pitched the property as an ideal location. At least one member of the Tribal Trustees said the site carried many positives for a future Shinnecock casino.

On Tuesday, tribal leaders said the search for a suitable site will still take a long time, perhaps years.

Michael Malik, the Detroit casino developer who has bankrolled the tribe’s legal fight and paid an annual stipend to the tribe and the salaries of some two dozen tribal employees, was in Southampton on Tuesday, tribe members said, but was not present for the phone call from Mr. Flemming or at the gathering afterward. Mr. Malik and his partners, Michael and Marian Ilitch, owners of the Little Caesars Pizza chain and the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers sports franchises, have helped develop Native American casinos in Michigan and California and have lobbied for expansion of gambling in other states as well.

A report prepared by a consultant to one of the tribe’s early investors in 2001 claimed that a Shinnecock-operated casino on Long Island, because of its proximity to New York City, could be expected to grow to be one of the biggest in the world within 10 years.

Aside from the casino possibilities, which will certainly occupy most of the tribe’s dealings in the coming years, federal recognition means the Shinnecocks will become eligible to apply for a broad spectrum of government aid for housing, health care, education and economic development.

Charles Randall, who is on a committee of tribe members who have been working on preparing grant applications since February, said first on the list of chores will be to establish a handful of inter-tribal agencies, like a tribal Housing Authority, through which government grants can be filtered.

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By Infoseeker (280), Hampton Bays on Jun 16, 10 11:31 AM
Ehat happened to the comments? They were just starting to get interesting, and they got erased?!?
By chelydra99 (4), London on Jun 16, 10 2:23 PM
This is a different article, if you want the other article see above where it says related articles.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jun 16, 10 2:37 PM
ICE is right. I wondered what happened to the comments too. They are interesting indeed!!
By unelana (29), North Wales on Jun 16, 10 4:44 PM
Newsday reported "While the tribe gains the right to open a casino on its reservation, it is expected to leverage land claims for some 3,000 acres primarily in Southampton, including the Stony Brook Southampton campus and Shinnecock Hills golf course, to negotiate a pact to locate a casino off reservation. Tribal leaders said they have approached Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) about the prospect of turning the recently mothballed Southampton campus into a tribal college, and noted their ...more
By js (44), NY on Jun 17, 10 4:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
It is not up to an assemblyman to decide the fate of land owned by SUNY. The Shinnecocks will always have land claims, see you in court!
By Walt (292), Southampton on Jun 17, 10 7:39 PM
Actually, the land is public property owned by NY state & its tax-payers - not SUNY. The tax-payers paid to acquire & renovate the property. SUNY only has control of its use. But now with the Shinnecocks being recognized officially and having a legal land claim on the property, that may change since it seems the Shinnecocks are the ones who really own it.
By js (44), NY on Jun 17, 10 8:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
I would also love to see the Shinnecock Nation take back the playground that the big kids have been playing on for years....Shinnecock Golf Course!! If there is no other land that they should take back, it should definitely be that land. Then Shinnecock Indian flag can be raised again to wave proudly. Seriously!!!
By unelana (29), North Wales PA on Jun 18, 10 9:49 AM
Ah-- the delicate question of money....
By Montaukette (46), Waterland on Jun 17, 10 11:44 PM
LOL All Hamptonites Vacate your premises. All of your land was never yours in the first place. It was all owned by some Indian tribe at some point and was taken from them by expansionist white settlers who ravaged their tribes with disease and oppression.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Jun 18, 10 9:48 AM
thats the way it goes.....we could give ourselves back to England as well
By SirHampton (60), quogue on Jun 19, 10 10:26 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jun 20, 10 2:16 PM
I believe the Great Spirit will know what to do and guide the SHINNECOCK
By KenBrownEagle (6), Southampton on Jun 18, 10 10:55 AM
I believe the great spirit will be guided by the deepest pockets
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Jun 18, 10 12:51 PM
great spirit sounds like a gangster.....
By SirHampton (60), quogue on Jun 19, 10 10:28 PM
new breed of gangsta indians............
By SirHampton (60), quogue on Jun 19, 10 10:28 PM
One white girl happy for our native brothers and sisters--recognition is the least we can do.
By heatherdune (12), Hampton Bays on Jun 18, 10 2:56 PM
yay, sell me more cancer, take all my money, awesome...
By SirHampton (60), quogue on Jun 19, 10 10:24 PM
Like cigarettes can only be bought on the rez. Keep posting you lower the bar each time.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jun 20, 10 2:15 PM
you cry babys, dont blame the indians for what the white man signed.we gave them tax free cigarettes,we gave them land to live on to to do their indian stuff.they have every right to have a casino
By banjack (45), port jeff on Jun 24, 10 2:15 PM