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Jul 23, 2010 10:33 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Challenges to recognition may not cause much delay

Jul 23, 2010 10:33 AM

It was supposed to be a time for celebration.

The Shinnecock Indian Nation was slated to receive final determination of federal recognition as a Native American nation last Monday, July 19—making it the 565th tribe to gain the status within the country.

Instead, the Shinnecocks found themselves two days later battling the same fight that has gripped the nation for more than three decades. Two objections surfaced within the past week challenging the tribe’s long sought federal recognition, with the main challenge being waged by a Connecticut group vested in that state’s gaming interests.

On Wednesday, an outpouring of Shinnecock Indian Nation members, many dressed in traditional Native American garb, united at the U.S. district court in Central Islip at what was supposed to be a federal recognition status update meeting, together sending one uniform message: They’re not backing down.

“The message is that we have proven our case,” said Doreen Pepe, a Shinnecock member. “That we are entitled to the federal benefits being a federally recognized nation … and that we have more than proven we are a proud, traditional people of Native American history.”

The Shinnecocks did breathe some sigh of relief. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph F. Bianco ruled that the Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA), the agency charged with reviewing the appeals and challenges to the Shinnecocks’ federal recognition, is required to abide by hard and fast deadlines to review the objections.

Under Judge Bianco’s order, the Department of the Interior, the umbrella agency for the IBIA, has until July 30 to report back to the court with a date-by-date schedule to review the objections to the nation’s federal recognition.

If the agency fails to provide dates by which to review and possibly resolve the objections, Judge Bianco said he could deem that the tribe has a case of “unreasonable delay,” and thus, he would impose a schedule he has drawn up—which would result with a final decision on the objections by September 24.

Judge Bianco’s decision relieved some Shinnecock leaders, who had fears that the two objections, which surfaced on July 15 and July 19, would indefinitely delay the nation’s federal recognition—a process that has already been ridden with unnecessary and unreasonable delay, they argued, since 1978.

“It’s an absurd situation that the federal government allows to happen,” said Shinnecock Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs, before entering the courtroom on Wednesday. There are two objections to the nation’s federal recognition. The main challenger is Connecticut group that calls itself the Connecticut Coalition for Gaming Jobs, claiming to represent 18,000 casino employees in that state. According to court officials at the meeting on Wednesday, the main objection outlined by the group points to the tribe’s business relationship with Gateway Casino Resorts, a Detroit casino developer, which has spent millions on the tribe in legal battles, in return for a cut of future casino profits.

Kevin Mulry, from the U.S. Attorney’s office, represented the Department of the Interior at last week’s court proceeding. He argued that the IBIA is an independent board, and that Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar may not have the authority to impose deadlines on them.

But Judge Bianco noted that the main objection by the Connecticut gaming group—the questions of the tribe’s independence surrounding its relationship with Gateway—is “hardly news,” and should be able to be swiftly addressed by the department.

“That’s certainly not something you think the Department of the Interior would have a hard time addressing,” Judge Bianco said.

The second objection was raised by the Montaukett Tribe. That objection, noted representatives of the Shinnecocks, does not even challenge the actual federal recognition. It was a request to be included within the Shinnecock application.

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By SirHampton (60), quogue on Jul 23, 10 11:58 AM
Don't forget all the free land the Shinnecock and other tribe gave to the settlers. I wish there was a pill for ignorance you could be given.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 23, 10 6:55 PM
My question is...If "they" know their Shinnecocks. Why do they need the governments recognition? I know who I am.

Somebody be honest. It's all about the cash isn't it?
By Soundview (89), Hampton bays on Jul 23, 10 3:14 PM
I think people are forgetting who this land really belonged to before settlers came over and stole the land from the Native Americans. Goverment owes them regardless! Many people would not have what they have today if they didnt steal it in the first place!
By CLC (1), Cumberland on Jul 23, 10 4:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you CLC. To others: yes you know who you are but no one contests it. As you are, you can walk right into a bank and receive a mortgage loan. Our children can't even go to Native schools because we first have to prove that they are Native through this degrading process. We can't even legally practice religious ceremonies because it is illegal for non-Natives (those who are not federally recognized) to own or transport Eagle feathers.
This is not about money; it is not even about what was ...more
By LadyLuck (6), Southampton on Jul 23, 10 5:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
I agree with all you said except the cash having nothing to do with it. Let's be real, it does have a part in this, not that there is anything wrong with that either. The Native American people do deserve various grants and assistance due to the hardships imposed over the last 370+ years in this area. Wealth in the form of land has been passed down from one generation to the next in families of European decent. We must all remember that much of this land was stolen and what was bought was done so ...more
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 23, 10 7:09 PM
Does one hear an echo?

Shinnecock College.

Institute for Earth Sustainability and Marine Sciences.

Gambling money poisons.

The Great Spirit smiles on the Shinnecock Nation's federal recognition.

Go in Peace.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 23, 10 6:30 PM
1 member liked this comment
Give the tribe recognition already. And a casino, right on the Res, without the backing of some overly rich white developer who will just skim off most of the profit.

Pro-development Southampton doesn't want this because of traffic?! LOL It's only rich white developers (like Rob Morrow) who get their support.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Jul 23, 10 11:38 PM
Your reporting is inaccurate as the Montaukett tribe did not raise an objection. Individuals CLAIMING to be Montaukett filed an appeal, which was not sanctioned by Montaukett leadership or supported by the overwhelming majority of Montaukett people. The Montaukett Nation stands by our Shinnecock Brothers and Sisters without qualification. The official stand of the Montaukett Nation can be found at www.montauktribe.org, which is the official website of the Montaukett nation.
By montauksky (1), W. Babylon on Jul 24, 10 11:03 AM
Hello all! If you would like to support the federal recognition of the Shinnecock Indian Nation and stop Connecticut from monopolizing the gaming industry please join the New York Coalition for Shinnecock Gaming on facebook. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=137819892904852&ref=ts.

Federal Recognition is about the protection of the Shinnecock from the ever encroaching rich land grabbers who would love to keep getting pieces of our reservation. It's about help to preserve our cultural ...more
By Takeynea (9), Southampton on Jul 24, 10 9:03 PM