On Wednesday, July 21 a federal judge set limits on a delay in Federal Recognition for Long Island's Shinnecock Indian Nation.
Judge Joseph Bianco gave the federal Department of Interior 10 days to write to him with a final date for approval of the federal recognition of the Shinnecock. Bianco says if the agency fails to do this he will set his own schedule for action to be taken by September 24th. Speaking outside the court house in Islip, Senior Shinnecock Trustee Lance Gumbs, says the delay is hurting the tribe:
“We have health care, education, all the essential elements that make up a community have now been delayed once again because of this frivolous claim. This group didn’t get formed until after our final decision came down and here we are now having to wait an additional 2 months...”
One of two groups that filed challenges to federal recognition of the tribe is the Connecticut Coalition for Gaming Jobs. That group, whose members are not named, claims that federal recognition of the Shinnecock will result in Connecticut's two Indian-run casinos losing money. They allege that the Bureau of Indian Affairs failed to acknowledge that casino developers were backing the Shinnecock and that this compromised the integrity of the tribal structure. Gumbs does not buy those arguments:
“They’re talking about preserving 27,000 jobs in Connecticut. They’re talking about Connecticut’s taxes. What about New York’s taxes? What about New York’s jobs? We had the ability to provide jobs here on Long Island. We had the ability to help out with the budget. Connecticut essentially threw us under the bus by saying ‘protect theirs, forget about New York’. ”
The Shinnecock filed for recognition in 1978 and again in 1998. In 2007 Judge Bianco had ruled that the BIA's delay was unreasonable. That ruling led to the BIA recognizing the Shinnecock in June. The judge says an open-ended BIA process for acting on the challenges constitutes another un-reasonable delay.
This report was prepared for WPKN 89.5 Bridgeport and WEER 88.7 Montauk (East End Radio).
Thanks to WPKN News Director and WSHU Connecticut Capitol Reporter Ebong Udoma.