Facts and Opinions on Shinnecock

Long Island Newsday reported that "In U.S. District Court in Central Islip" last Tuesday, "the tribe's lawyers argued before Judge Thomas Platt - who granted recognition in November - that Southampton's own tax maps prove it has no zoning power over the land. Attorney for the Shinnecock Nation, Christopher Lunding of Manhattan introduced the town's official tax map, which labels the parcel "Ind Res" - short for Indian Reservation - the same land category applied to the tribe's main reservation."

On the following day according to Newsday's report:

"Judge Thomas Platt ruled that freelance historian James Patrick Lynch was qualified to present expert testimony on the Shinnecock's descendants, and whether they have a historical claim to 79 acres in Hampton Bays. The nation says English settlers acquired the site illegally in a lease signed in the 1700s."

Recognition of an Indian tribe can be accomplished in any of three ways according to US law; by the Executive Branch (usually via the Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs), by an act of Congress or by a Federal Court ruling.

Nevertheless facts do not get in the way of opinions according to this from the Associated Press (Newsday of October 14):

The AP asked the two major party candidates for Governor of NY this question:

Do you support the Shinnecock Indians' efforts to build a casino in Long Island's Hamptons?

Republican John Faso:

"No. First of all, under federal law, Indian casinos can only be run by a federally recognized Indian tribe or nation on Indian reservations. The Shinnecock are not a federally recognized tribe and therefore cannot run a casino. "

Democrat Eliot Spitzer: "No. The Shinnecock tribe is not a federally recognized tribe; they have not entered into a valid casino compact with the state; and they are proposing to build a casino on property that is not sovereign tribal reservation land."

A casino 'compact with the state' would be required (after Federal recognition) for a full fledged casino operation. Certain types of gaming such as 'high stakes bingo' would not require agreement with the state.

Judge Platt ruled on recognition last November and must rule on the status of the Westwoods property in the current trial at the Islip court.