Shinnecock recognition in limbo Shinnecock recognition in limbo
by Claude Solnik
Published: July 19, 2010
They waited. And they waited. And now they’re waiting again.
It was a case of a dream delayed, if not denied, for the Shinnecock Indian Nation today as the much-awaited federal recognition failed to materialize.
A month after receiving a call notifying them that the federal government would recognize the Shinnecock Indian Nation, there was no congratulatory call, no victory lap.
The 30-day comment period expired quietly today after which the recognition would take effect, if there were no protests.
But a group called the Connecticut Coalition for Gaming Jobs filed a protest, at least temporarily putting recognition on hold.
“We recommended the final determination,” said Nedra Darling, a spokeswoman for the United States Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. “The final finding was they were to be recognized.”
But the Interior Board of Indian Appeals received the protest, which must be ruled on before that decision is ratified.
A spokeswoman for the Board of Appeals earlier today said the judge hadn’t issued any ruling regarding the case.
“They have to look at the appeal. They do all the research,” Darling said. “We made the decision. There is an appeals process.”
Calls seeking comment from the Shinnecocks weren’t immediately returned. But as recognition appeared to retreat for the moment, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, I-Montauk, in a written statement lashed out at efforts to stall the decision.
He said interests sought to stop the Shinnecocks from rightful recognition in order to benefit Connecticut casinos and other businesses. Federal recognition brings the right to develop a casino.
“For the past 20 years, Connecticut has benefited significantly from the great number of Long Islanders who spend their money in Connecticut casinos,” Schneiderman said. “The loss of this revenue is what is motivating this new attack on our indigenous people.”
A spokesman for the Connecticut group wouldn’t say who financed it, but said it did not represent tribes that own casinos in Connecticut.
The challenge by the group, which records indicate was created only days before the filing, will be handled by the Interior Board of Indian Appeals, an appellate review body whose administrative judges decide appeals to decisions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs within the Department of the Interior.
While IBIA decisions represent the department’s final rulings, they may be appealed to the United States district courts. This could open the door to delays due to litigation.
The Department of Interior’s final determination, which is being challenged, treats the Shinnecock Indian Nation as having existed at least since 1789 as a historical Indian tribe.
An act passed by New York in 1792 re-organized this tribe as a trusteeship, living on a leasehold created in 1703 in Southampton.
The law provided for annual elections of three Indian trustees, elections that have taken place from 1792 to the present.
The trustees have allocated the group’s land and resources consistently for almost 220 years, according to the Department of the Interior.