The Shinnecocks are on the federal fast track
By Jennifer Landes
With the Shinnecock Indian Nation now under active consideration by the Office of Federal Acknowledgment of the United States Department of the Interior and Suffolk County voting to approve the naming of a task force to study the feasibility and placement of a gaming facility on Tuesday, casino gambling is closer to reality than ever on Long Island.
The Shinnecocks had two things going against them in previous attempts to capitalize on federal laws that allowed gaming on Native American reservations. There was never community or state support to place the facilities on the reservation in Shinnecock Hills or on land they owned in Hampton Bays, and they were not on the list of federally recognized tribes managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the Department of the Interior.
But in September, a federal judge ordered the Department of the Interior to consider placing the Shinnecocks at the top of the list of tribes scheduled for consideration for placement on the list. Another federal judge had issued a decision recognizing the tribe in 2003, but it was not at the time deemed sufficient by the department to place them on the list. At the same time the tribe has had an application pending with the department since 1978.
According to a letter sent to the Shinnecocks’ trustees on Nov. 10, the Office of Federal Recognition began its “active consideration” of the application on that day. Representative Tim Bishop said the process should take about 18 months. Before the judge’s action, the tribe had expected to wait about a decade for consideration even though their application had been deemed complete by the department years ago.
“Yes, they have been bumped up in the queue, and I expect a judgment in the next year and a half. The Shinnecock gaming issue is anything but hypothetical,” Mr. Bishop said. He added that “as a layman it certainly appears to me they meet the criteria for a recognized tribe,” but he noted that their application will be thoroughly scrutinized.
Once they receive official recognition, the most significant obstacle will have been removed. The process to have a facility approved, however, will also take some time under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. To conduct gaming operations off-site of the reservation, “they have to designate a location to conduct gaming and it has to be taken into trust by the Department of the Interior.” The New York State Legislature and governor must also agree to the proposal. (Complete Story)