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Nov 16, 2010 4:03 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Shinnecocks Will Have To Wait For Federal Aid

Nov 16, 2010 4:03 PM

When a Native American tribe receives official recognition from the federal government, it becomes eligible for mountains of aid that can help improve infrastructure and housing conditions on the reservation, as well as creating dozens or hundreds of jobs.

The Shinnecock Indian Nation, however, will have a long wait before they see any such benefits.

Because of the timing of the announcement that the tribe had earned federal recognition—the final announcement on October 1 came after numerous delays, exacerbated by an 11th-hour challenge from a group claiming to represent Connecticut casino employees, which delayed the final approval by two months—the tribe missed the opportunity to be added into the federal aid package in the 2011 budget.

There had been some hope that at least some funding from the 2011 aid would be available to the tribe. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs has informed the tribe that will not be the case. Budget cuts in the face of a mounting federal deficit will leave the tribe out of the federal aid arena until 2012—and even then aid packages are expected to be limited.

“We had a conference call with the BIA—it’s a grim outlook, economically,” Shinnecock Tribal Trustees chairman Randy King said recently. “We’re working closely with them, but these are challenging economic times.”

The tribe’s casino plans will continue apace, but that potential source of revenue is likely many years down the road, so the loss of federal aid puts a damper on many of the programs tribe members have been planning for years.

The tribe has more than a dozen committees working on programs that it hopes will one day become departments within a growing tribal government, and that those departments in turn will help tribe members improve life on the Shinnecock Neck reservation, just outside of Southampton Village. Committees made up of members of the Tribal Council and various tribe members have been working for months on drafting grant proposals and management plans for housing, education, economic development and health care programs, intra-tribal ordinances, protection of tribal artifacts found on lands outside the reservation, and encroachment on tribal rights and emergency management.

An entire committee, led by tribe members who are attorneys, is dedicated just to writing grants and learning to navigate the labyrinthine process of grant writing to fund the numerous programs the tribe is hoping to establish for its members in the future.

“There’s a lot of learning to be done, and our people have been working at it for a long time,” Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs said. “Internally, we’re working on 17 to 20 programs we have to get structured and apply for funding for. We’ll be in the 2012 funding cycle, and we will have to be ready when the government asks us what we need.”

The tribe had expected to apply for grants to fund a tribal court to handle internal conflicts almost immediately after receiving federal recognition, but the federal funding deadline derailed the program for at least another year.

Mr. King said that the BIA will send its own team to the Shinnecock Reservation in the coming months to assess the tribe’s most urgent needs. He said the tribe is also meeting with other federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, setting up the groundwork for cooperation with the country’s newest sovereign ally.

It is expected that just the infrastructure of planning could potentially be an economic boost for the tribe once it is dropped into the federal funding mix. Committees could become departments, with jobs for department heads, assistants and clerical staff.

“The leadership are all volunteers now, but in the future they won’t have to be,” Mr. Gumbs said. “We pretty much have the structure in place, and we’re getting assistance from the BIA on defining the logistics. It’s going to create a tremendous number of jobs eventually, some sooner than others. We might even have to go outside the tribe to fill positions—that’s a real possibility, we could become a local employer.”

The tribe already has a committee that is fully employed: its five-member Gaming Authority, which is paid from funds given to the tribe by Gateway Casinos, the Detroit-based casino development firm that has bankrolled the tribe’s legal battles and casino effort over the last several years, to the tune of millions of dollars, possibly tens of millions, in exchange for a cut of the profits of a future casino.

Those bills will continue to mount, as the casino is probably years in the future. In the meantime, the tribe will be looking to its new federal partners to help it remedy some of the problems the tribe has struggled with for decades.

“We were looking forward to this for a long time, and it’s great that it’s here, but there are still challenges,” Mr. King said of federal recognition. “Our people are doing a good job of laying the groundwork, but now we’re going to have to wait for a while before we see some of the benefits of that.”

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By uncleronk (136), southold on Nov 17, 10 2:46 PM
A sigh of relief from around THE EAST END of Long Island!!! Well, at least we have a couple of more years of peace with NO CASINO!!!!! Sorry, Shinnecocks but really with all the poverty stricken people and families having to foreclose and live in cars....do you expect any more should be given to you?? Lets not be greedy now and lets remember those of us who have a roof over our heads, weather it be leaking or not.. are fortunate. So, lets put it all in perspective. Also, Home Depot is not that ...more
By et6678 (12), southampton on Nov 18, 10 1:28 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Erok, Southampton on Nov 18, 10 7:43 PM
2 members liked this comment
they don't need to rely on the govt! thats only icing!
some big opportunist with deep pockets will take care of it all...
By 11968shlocal (22), southampton on Nov 18, 10 11:38 PM
why is it different for you to find a job? Did you go to SH high school? It has been too many years for someone to claim ignorance...
By 11968shlocal (22), southampton on Nov 18, 10 11:44 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Erok, Southampton on Dec 29, 10 6:31 PM
Not to worry, Shinnecocks, the "good faith" money from groups who want to "partner" with you in casino development are only a notion away.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Nov 18, 10 9:59 AM
Good luck Shinnecocks...of course someone will step in...and help you or take advantage of the situation
May God bring to you tenfold what you bring to this island...Kharma happens!

By 11968shlocal (22), southampton on Nov 18, 10 9:28 PM
Let the ignorant comments commence! Gotta love the SH Press!
By cochise316 (58), southampton on Nov 19, 10 8:51 AM
WOW! You people are nuts! FYI I'm white and I can't believe the bull that YOU PEOPLE talk.
FYI, Did you buy your house with cash? I'm pretty sure alittle thing called a bank helped you. Banks don't give morgages to the rez so unless you have a hundred thousand dollars to share with them why dont we just let the goverment help them out..
By Marie7399 (4), southampton on Nov 19, 10 9:09 AM
2 members liked this comment
Nothing changes fro the Shinnecocks, they are no worse off than they have been for the past 100 years. We as a nation do nor owe anything to people for what occureed hundreds of years ago in history. They have had plenty of time to assimilate into society and have failed to do so. They attend the same high schools as non-native americans. It's the lack of what they have done with their opportunities that has them in the situatiuon they face today.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Nov 20, 10 8:56 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Erok, Southampton on Dec 29, 10 6:18 PM
It's not that clear cut. They were not welcomed to assimilate until quite recently. Old barriers come down slowly. They were not given the same job opportunities or education and that has taken a terrible toll. Many college grads from the reservation had to go elsewhere to find employment because they could not get hired here. For example, it's only been in the last ten years or so that the local school system has hired qualified teachers from the reservation in any numbers. And, it's true, they ...more
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Nov 20, 10 11:24 PM