By Scott McKie B.P.
One Feather staff
The Shinnecock Indian Nation of New York heard words on Tuesday, Dec. 15 that they’ve been waiting to hear for 31 years – that they’ve received preliminary approval for federal recognition as an American Indian tribe.
“As a result of this finding, our more than 30-year quest for federal recognition is finally within our grasp,” said Randy King, Shinnecock Board of Trustees chairman. “We look forward to reclaiming our rightful place on this list, which will enable us to qualify for federal programs long denied to our people. To be denied the ability to partner with the federal government on housing, health care, educational, and economic justice initiatives is no longer tolerable.”
The announcement was made on Tuesday, Dec. 15 by Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs George T. Skibine. The Department of Interior related that the Shinnecock, which number 1,066, met all seven criteria required for recognition.
“The petitioner has occupied a land base in Southampton, NY that was formally defined in 1703, reduced in size in 1859, and exists today as a state Indian reservation,” DOI information states. “Since 1792, when the State of New York established a political system by which the Shinnecocks would annually elect three members as trustees to manage Shinnecock lands, the trustees have acted to protect Shinnecock interests.”
Shinnecock Trustee Free Bess commented, “This preliminary ruling makes clear that our placement on the federal list is only a matter of time. We look forward to improving the quality of life for our people, who have waited far too long for this day.”
Trustee Gordell Wright added, “We have long prided ourselves on the good relationship we have had with the State of New York and the local community around the reservation. We fully intend to remain good neighbors as we pursue opportunities to provide jobs for our people.”
A final decision is expected by spring following a 90-day comment period.